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be ret urneS on or before' the daie last marked Mow. 



By A. R. Hope Moncrieff 



By Charles Squire 


By Donald A. Mackenzie 


By A. R. Hope Moncrieff 


By Donald A. Mackenzie 


By Donald A. Mackenzie 



By Donald A. Mackenzie 




U U U 


J? /< 

asmutons in 



This book is what its author believes to be the only 
attempt yet made to put the English reader into posses- 
sion, in clear, compact, and what it is hoped may prove 
agreeable, form, of the mythical, legendary, and poetic 
traditions of the earliest inhabitants of our islands who 
have left us written records the Gaelic and the British 
Celts. It is true that admirable translations and para- 
phrases of much of Gaelic mythical saga have been recently 
published, and that Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of 
the Mabinogion has been placed within the reach of the 
least wealthy reader. But these books not merely each 
cover a portion only of the whole ground, but, in addition, 
contain little elucidatory matter. Their characters stand 
isolated and unexplained; and the details that would ex- 
plain them must be sought for with considerable trouble 
in the lectures and essays of scholars to learned societies. 
The reader to whom this literature is entirely new is 
introduced, as it were, to numerous people of whose ante- 
cedents he knows nothing; and the effect is often dis- 
concerting enough to make him lay down the volume in 

But here he will at last make the formal acquaintance 
of all the chief characters of Celtic myth: of the Gaelic 
gods and the giants against whom they struggled; of the 
"Champions of the Red Branch" of Ulster, heroes of a 
martial epopee almost worthy to be placed beside "the 
tale of Troy divine"; and of Finn and his Fenians. He 
will meet also with the divine and heroic personages of 

vi Preface 

the ancient Britons: with their earliest gods, kin to the 
members of the Gaelic Pantheon; as well as with Arthur 
and his Knights, whom he will recognize as no mortal 
champions, but belonging to the same mythic company, 
Of all these mighty figures the histories will be briefly 
recorded^ from the time of their unquestioned godhood, 
through their various transformations, to the last doubtful, 
dying recognition of them in the present day, as " fairies ". 
Thus the volume will form a kind of handbook to a subject 
of growing importance the so-called " Celtic Renaissance", 
which is, after all, no more and, indeed, no less than 
an endeavour to refresh the vitality of English poetry at 
its most ancient native fount. 

The book does not, of course, profess to be for Celtic 
scholars, to whom, indeed, its author himself owes all that 
is within it. It aims only at interesting the reader familiar 
with the mythologies of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia 
in another, and a nearer, source of poetry. Its author's 
wish is to offer those who have fallen, or will fall, under 
the attraction of Celtic legend and romance, just such a 
volume as he himself would once have welcomed, and for 
which he sought in vain. It is his hope that, in choosing 
from the considerable, though scattered, translations and 
commentaries of students of Old Gaelic and Old Welsh, 
he has chosen wisely, and that his readers will be able, 
should they wish, to use his book as a stepping-stone to 
the authorities themselves. To that end it is wholly 
directed; and its marginal notes and short bibliographical 
appendix follow the same plan. They do not aspire to 
anything like completeness, but only to point out the chief 
sources from which he himself has drawn. 

To acknowledge, as far as possible, such debts is now 
the author's pleasing duty. First and foremost, he has 
relied upon the volumes of M. H. d'Arbois de Jubainville's 
Cours de Literature celtique, and the Hibbert Lectures 
for 1886 of John Rhys, Professor of Celtic in the Univer- 

Preface vii 

sity of Oxford, with their sequel entitled Studies in the 
Arthurian Legend. From the writings of Mr. Alfred Nutt 
he has also obtained much help. With regard to direct 
translations, it seems almost superfluous to refer to Lady 
Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion and Mr. W, F. Skene's Four 
Ancient Books of Wales, or to the work of such well-known 
Gaelic scholars as Mr. Eugene O'Curry, Dr. Kuno Meyer, 
Dr. Whitley Stokes, Dr. Ernest Windisch, Mr. Stanclish 
Hayes O'Grady (to mention no others), as contained in 
such publications as the Revue Celtique^ the Atlantis, and 
the Transactions of the Ossianic Society, in Mr. O'Grady's 
Silva Gadelica, Mr. Nutt's Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal y 
and Miss Hull's Cuchullin Saga. But space is lacking to 
do justice to all. The reader is referred to the marginal 
notes and the Appendix for the works of these and other 
authors, who will no doubt pardon the use made of their 
researches to one whose sole object has been to gain a 
larger audience for the studies they have most at heart. 

Finally, perhaps, a word should be said upon that vexed 
question, the transliteration of Gaelic. As yet there is 
no universal or consistent method of spelling. The author 
has therefore chosen the forms which seemed most familiar 
to himself, hoping in that way to best serve the uses of 


CHAP. Page 
























OF BRAN 289 


x Contents 

CHAP. Page 









MODERN TIMES ....... 399 


INDEX . 425 


WORDS , 447 


LUGH'S ENCLOSURE Frontispiece 

From a painting by E. Watlcousins 

From a painting by E. Wai '/cousins 


From a fainting by E. Wai /cousins 


From a painting by E. Wallcousins 




F'om the drawing by E. Wallcousins 



From a drawing by H. R* Millar 


From the painting by J, H. F. Bacon^ A.R.A* 




LER AND THE SWANS .-.--. 144 

From the painting by J. //. F. Bacon, A.R.A. 



From a drawing by H. R. Millar 


From the painting by J. H. F. Bacon, A.R.A. 



From a drawing by H. R. Milla^ 

xiv Plates in Monochrome 


CIAN FINDS BALOR'S DAUGHTER . . . . facing 236 
From a drawing by H. R. Millar 


From a drawing by E, ff^allcousins 



From a drawing by E. Wallcousins 



From a drawing by E. Wallcousins 


From the picture by G. F. Watts^ R.A 


From the picture by Ford Madox Brown 




It should hardly be necessary to remind the 
reader of what profound interest and value to every 
nation are its earliest legendary and poetical records. 
The beautiful myths of Greece form a sufficing ex- 
ample. In threefold manner, they have influenced 
the destiny of the people that created them, and of 
the country of which they were the imagined theatre. 
First, in the ages in which they were still fresh, 
belief and pride in them were powerful enough to 
bring scattered tribes into confederation. Secondly, 
they gave the inspiration to sculptor and poet of an 
art and literature unsurpassed, if not unequalled, by 
any other age or race. Lastly, when " the glory 
that was Greece " had faded, and her people had, by 
dint of successive invasions, perhaps even ceased 
to have any right to call themselves Hellenes, they 
have passed over into the literatures of the modern 

(B219) I A 

2 Mythology of the British Islands 

world, and so given to Greece herself a poetic 
interest that still makes a petty kingdom of greater 
account in the eyes of its compeers than many 
others far superior to it in extent and resources. 

This permeating influence of the Greek poetical 
mythology, apparent in all civilized countries, has 
acted especially upon our own. From almost the 
very dawn of English literature, the Greek stories of 
gods and heroes have formed a large part of the 
stock-in-trade of English poets. The inhabitants of 
Olympus occupy, under their better-known Latin 
names, almost as great a space in English poetry as 
they did in that of the countries to which they were 
native. From Chaucer downwards, they have capti- 
vated the imagination alike of the poets and their 
hearers. The magic cauldron of classic myth fed, 
like the Celtic " Grail ", all who came to it for 

At last, however, its potency became somewhat 
exhausted. Alien and exotic to English soil, it 
degenerated slowly into a convention. In the 
shallow hands of the poetasters of the eighteenth 
century, its figures became mere puppets. With 
every wood a "grove", and every rustic maid a 
41 nymph ", one could only expect to find Venus 
armed with patch and powder-puff, Mars shouldering 
a musket, and Apollo inspiring the versifier's own 
trivial strains. The affectation killed and fortu- 
nately killed a mode of expression which had be- 
come obsolete. Smothered by just ridicule, and 
abandoned to the commonplace vocabulary of the 
inferior hack-writer, classic myth became a subject 

Importance of Celtic Mythology 3 

which only the greatest poets could afford to 

But mythology is of such vital need to literature 
that, deprived of the store of legend native to 
southern Europe, imaginative writers looked for a 
fresh impulse. They turned their eyes to the North, 
Inspiration was sought, not from Olympus, but from 
Asgard. Moreover, it was believed that the fount 
of primeval poetry issuing from Scandinavian and 
Teutonic myth was truly our own, and that we were 
rightful heirs of it by reason of the Anglo-Saxon in 
our blood. And so, indeed, we are; but it is not 
our sole heritage. There must also run much Celtic 
that is, truly British blood in our veins. 1 And 
Matthew Arnold was probably right in asserting 
that, while we owe to the Anglo-Saxon the more 
practical qualities that have built up the British 
Empire, we have inherited from the Celtic side that 
poetic vision which has made English literature the 
most brilliant since the Greek. 2 

We have the right, therefore, to enter upon a new 
spiritual possession. And a splendid one it is! The 
Celtic mythology has little of the heavy crudeness 
that repels one in Teutonic and Scandinavian story. 

1 "There is good ground to believe ", writes Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, M.A., the 
librarian of the Bodleian Library, in the preface to his recently-published Keltic 
Researches^ "that Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, 
Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and 
part of Sussex, are as Keltic as Perthshire and North Munster; that Cheshire, 
Shropshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset, 
Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, and Bedfordshire are more so and equal 
to North Wales and Leinster; while Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire exceed 
even this degree and are on a level with South Wales and Ulster. Cornwall, of 
course, is more Keltic than any other English county, and as much so as Argyll. 
Inverness-shire, or Connaught. " 8 The Study of Celtic Literature* 

4 Mythology of the British Islands 

It is as beautiful and graceful as the Greek; and, 
unlike the Greek, which is the reflection of a clime 
and soil which few of us will ever see, it is our own. 
Divinities should, surely, seem the inevitable out- 
growth of the land they move in! How strange 
Apollo would appear, naked among icebergs, or fur- 
clad Thor striding under groves of palms! But the 
Celtic gods and heroes are the natural inhabitants of 
a British landscape, not seeming foreign and out-of- 
place in a scene where there is no vine or olive, but 
" shading in with " our homely oak and bracken, 
gorse and heath. 

Thus we gain an altogether fresh interest in the 
beautiful spots of our own islands, especially those 
of the wilder and more mountainous west, where the 
older inhabitants of the land lingered longest. Saxon 
conquest obliterated much in Eastern Britain, and 
changed more; but in the West of England, in 
Wales, in Scotland, and especially in legend-haunted 
Ireland, the hills and dales still keep memories of 
the ancient gods of the ancient race. Here and 
there in South Wales and the West of England are 
regions once mysterious and still romantic which 
the British Celts held to be the homes of gods or 
outposts of the Other World. In Ireland, not only 
is there scarcely a place that is not connected in some 
way with the traditionary exploits of the " Red 
Branch Champions ", or of Finn and his mighty men, 
but the old deities are still remembered, dwarfed 
into fairies, but keeping the same attributes and the 
same names as of yore. Wordsworth's complaint 1 

1 In a sonnet written in 1801. 

Importance of Celtic Mythology 5 

that, while Pelion and Ossa, Olympus and Parnassus 
are " in immortal books enrolled ", not one Eng- 
lish mountain, " though round our sea-girt shore 
they rise in crowds ", had been " by the Celestial 
Muses glorified " doubtless seemed true to his own 
generation. Thanks to the scholars who have un- 
veiled the ancient Gaelic and British mythologies, 
it need not be so for ours. On Ludgate Hill, as 
well as on many less famous eminences, once stood 
the temple of the British Zeus. A mountain not 
far from Bettws-y-Coed was the British Olympus, 
the court and palace of our ancient gods. 

It may well be doubted, however, whether Words- 
worth's contemporaries would have welcomed the 
mythology which was their own by right of birth 
as a substitute for that of Greece and Rome. The 
inspiration of classic culture, which Wordsworth was 
one of the first to break with, was still powerful. 
How some of its professors would have held their 
sides and roared at the very notion of a British 
mythology! Yet, all the time, it had long been 
secretly leavening English ideas and ideals, none 
the less potently because disguised under forms 
which could be readily appreciated. Popular fancy 
had rehabilitated the old gods, long banned by the 
priests' bell, book, and candle, under various dis- 
guises. . They still lived on in legend as kings of 
ancient Britain reigning in a fabulous past anterior 
to Julius Caesar such were King Lud, founder of 
London; King Lear, whose legend was immortalized 
by Shakespeare; King Brennius, who conquered 
Rome; as well as many others who will be found 

6 Mythology of the British Islands 

filling parts in old drama. They still lived on as 
long-dead saints of the early churches of Ireland 
and Britain, whose wonderful attributes and adven- 
tures are, in many cases, only those of their original 
namesakes, the old gods, told afresh. And they still 
lived on in another, and a yet more potent, way. 
Myths of Arthur and his cycle of gods passed into 
the hands of the Norman story-tellers, to reappear 
as romances of King Arthur and his Knights of the 
Table Round. Thus spread over civilized Europe, 
their influence was immense. Their primal poetic 
impulse is still resonant in our literature; we need 
only instance Tennyson and Swinburne as minds 
that have come under its sway. 

This diverse influence of Celtic mythology upon 
English poetry and romance has been eloquently set 
forth by Mr. Elton in his Origins of English History. 
" The religion of the British tribes ", he writes, " has 
exercised an important influence upon literature. 
The mediaeval romances and the legends which 
stood for history are full of the ' fair humanities ' 
and figures of its bright mythology. The elemental 
powers of earth and fire, and the spirits which 
haunted the waves and streams appear again as 
kings in the Irish Annals, or as saints and hermits 
in Wales. The Knights of the Round Table, Sir 
Kay and Tristrem and the bold Sir Bedivere, betray 
their mighty origin by the attributes they retained 
as heroes of romance. It was a goddess, * Dea 
quaedam phantastica\ who bore the wounded Arthur 
to the peaceful valley, ' There was little sunlight 
on its woods and streams, and the nights were dark 

Importance of Celtic Mythology 7 

and gloomy for want of the moon and stars/ This 
is the country of Oberon and of Sir Huon of Bor- 
deaux. It is the dreamy forest of Arden. In an 
older mythology, it was the realm of a King of 
Shadows, the country of Gwyn ap Nudd, who rode 
as Sir Guyon in the ' Fairie Queene ' 

And knighthood took of good Sir Huon's hand, 
-When with King Oberon he came to Fairyland'." 1 

To trace Welsh and Irish kings and saints and 
hermits back to "the elemental powers of earth 
and fire, and the spirits that haunted the woods 
and streams " of Celtic imagination, and to disclose 
primitive pagan deities under the mediaeval and 
Christian trappings of "King Arthur's Knights" will 
necessarily fall within the scope of this volume. 
But meanwhile the reader will probably be asking 
what evidence there is that apocryphal British kings 
like Lear and Lud, and questionable Irish saints 
like Bridget are really disguised Celtic divinities, or 
that the Morte D'Arthur, with its love of Launcelot 
and the queen, and its quest of the Holy Grail, was 
ever anything more than an invention of the Norman 
romance- writers. He will demand to know what 
facts we really possess about this supposed Celtic 
mythology alleged to have furnished their prototypes, 
and of what real antiquity and value are our authori- 
ties upon it. 

The answer to his question will be found in the 
next chapter. 

1 Elton: Origins of English History, chap. X. 



We may begin by asserting with confidence that 
Mr. Elton has touched upon a part only of the 
material on which we may draw, to reconstruct 
the ancient British mythology. Luckily, we are 
not wholly dependent upon the difficult tasks of 
resolving the fabled deeds of apocryphal Irish and 
British kings who reigned earlier than St. Patrick 
or before Julius Caesar into their original form of 
Celtic myths, of sifting the attributes and miracles 
of doubtfully historical saints, or of separating the 
primitive pagan elements in the legends of Arthur 
and his Knights from the embellishments added by 
the romance-writers. We have, in addition to these 
which we may for the present put upon one side as 
secondary sources, a mass of genuine early writings 
which, though post-Christian in the form in which 
they now exist, none the less descend from the pre- 
ceding pagan age. These are contained in vellum 
and parchment manuscripts long preserved from 
destruction in mansions and monasteries in Ireland, 
Scotland, and Wales, and only during the last cen- 
tury brought to light, copied, and translated by the 
patient labours of scholars who have grappled with 

Sources of our Knowledge 9 

the long-obsolete dialects in which they were trans- 

Many of these volumes are curious miscellanies. 
Usually the one book of a great house or monastic 
community, everything was copied into it that the 
scholar of the family or brotherhood thought to be 
best worth preserving. Hence they contain matter 
of the most diverse kind. There are translations of 
portions of the Bible and of the classics, and of such 
then popular books as Geoffrey of Monmouth's and 
Nennius 1 Histories of Britain; lives of famous saints, 
together with works attributed to them ; poems and 
romances of which, under a thin disguise, the old 
Gaelic and British gods are the heroes; together 
with treatises on all the subjects then studied 
grammar, prosody, law, history, geography, chron- 
ology, and the genealogies of important chiefs. 

The majority of these documents were put together 
during a period which, roughly speaking, lasted from 
the beginning of the twelfth century to the end of 
the sixteenth. In Ireland, in Wales, and, appa- 
rently, also in Scotland, it was a time of literary 
revival after the turmoils of the previous epoch. In 
Ireland, the Norsemen, after long ravaging, had 
settled peacefully down, while in Wales, the Nor- 
man Conquest had rendered the country for the first 
time comparatively quiet. The scattered remains of 
history, lay and ecclesiastical, of science, and of 
legend were gathered together. 

Of the Irish manuscripts, the earliest, and, for our 
purposes, the most important, on account of the 
great store of ancient Gaelic mythology which, in 

to Mythology of the British Islands 

spite of its dilapidated condition, it still contains, is 
in the possession of the Royal Irish Academy. Un- 
luckily, it is reduced to a fragment of one hundred 
and thirty-eight pages, but this remnant preserves a 
large number of romances relating to the old gods 
and heroes of Ireland. Among other things, it con- 
tains a complete account of the epical saga called 
the Tdin B6 Chuailgnt, the " Raiding of the Cattle 
of Cooley ", in which the hero, Cuchulainn, performed 
his greatest feats. This manuscript is called the Book 
of the Dun Cow, from the tradition that it was copied 
from an earlier book written upon the skin of a 
favourite animal belonging to Saint Ciaran, who 
lived in the seventh century. An entry upon one 
of its pages reveals the name of its scribe, one Mael- 
muiri, whom we know to have been killed by robbers 
in the church of Clonmacnois in the year 1 106. 

Far more voluminous, and but little less ancient, 
is the Book of Leinster, said to have been compiled 
in the early part of the twelfth century by Finn mac 
Gorman, Bishop of Kildare. This also contains an 
account of Cuchulainn's mighty deeds which supple- 
ments the older version in the Book of the Dun Cow. 
Of somewhat less importance from the point of view 
of the student of Gaelic mythology come the Book 
of Ballymote and the Yellow Book of Lecan, belong- 
ing to the end of the fourteenth century, and the 
Books of Lecan and of Lismore, both attributed to 
the fifteenth. Besides these six great collections, 
there survive many other manuscripts which also 
contain ancient mythical lore. In one of these, 
dating from the fifteenth century, is to be found the 

Sources of our Knowledge \ I 

story of the Battle of Moytura, fought between the 
gods of Ireland and their enemies, the Fomors, or 
demons of the deep sea. 

The Scottish manuscripts, preserved in the Advo- 
cates' Library at Edinburgh, date back in some cases 
as far as the fourteenth century, though the majority 
of them belong to the fifteenth and sixteenth. They 
corroborate the Irish documents, add to the Cuchu- 
lainn saga, and make a more special subject of the 
other heroic cycle, that which relates the not less 
wonderful deeds of Finn, Ossian, and the Fenians. 
They also contain stories of other characters, who, 
more ancient than either Finn or Cuchulainn, are 
the Tuatha D6 Danann, the god-tribe of the ancient 

The Welsh documents cover about the same 
period as the Irish and the Scottish. Four of these 
stand out from the rest, as most important. The 
oldest is the Black Book of Caermarthen, which 
dates from the third quarter of the twelfth cen- 
tury; the Book of Aneurin, which was written late 
in the thirteenth; the Book of Taliesin, assigned 
to the fourteenth; and the Red Book of Hergest, 
compiled by various persons during that century and 
the one following it. The first three of these " Four 
Ancient Books of Wales " are small in size, and con- 
tain poems attributed to the great traditional bards 
of the sixth century, Myrddin, Taliesin, and Aneurin. 
The last the Red Book of Hergest is far larger. 
In it are to be found Welsh translations of the British 
Chronicles; the oft-mentioned Triads, verses cele- 
brating famous traditionary persons or things; 

12 Mythology of the British Islands 

ancient poems attributed to Llywarch Hen; and, 
of priceless value to any study of our subject, the 
so-called Mabinogion, stories in which large portions 
of the old British mythology are worked up into 
romantic form. 

The whole bulk, therefore, of the native literature 
bearing upon the mythology of the British Islands 
may be attributed to a period which lasted from the 
beginning of the twelfth century to the end of the 
sixteenth. But even the commencement of this era 
will no doubt seem far too late a day to allow 
authenticity to matter which ought to have vastly 
preceded it The date, however, merely marks the 
final redaction of the contents of the manuscripts 
into the form in which they now exist, without 
bearing at all upon the time of their authorship. 
Avowedly copies of ancient poems and tales from 
much older manuscripts, the present books no more 
fix the period of the original composition of their 
contents than the presence of a portion of the Canter- 
bury Tales in a modern anthology of English poetry 
would assign Chaucer to the present year of grace. 

This may be proved both directly and inferentially. 1 
In some instances as in that of an elegy upon Saint 
Columba in the Book of the Dun Cow the dates of 
authorship are actually given. In others, we may 
depend upon evidence which, if not quite so absolute, 
is nearly as convincing. Even where the writer 
does not state that he is copying from older manu- 

1 Satisfactory summaries of the evidence for the dates of both the Gaelic and 
Welsh legendary material will be found in pamphlets No. 8 and n of Mr. Nutt's 
Popular Studies in Mythology \ Romance, and Folklore. 

Sources of our Knowledge 13 

scripts, it is obvious that this must have been the 
case, from the glosses in his version. The scribes 
of the earlier Gaelic manuscripts very often found, in 
the documents from which they themselves were 
copying, words so archaic as to be unintelligible to 
the readers of their own period. To render them 
comprehensible, they were obliged to insert marginal 
notes which explained these obsolete words by 
reference to other manuscripts more ancient still. 
Often the mediaeval copyists have ignorantly moved 
these notes from the margin into the text, where they 
remain, like philological fossils, to give evidence of 
previous forms of life. The documents from which 
they were taken have perished, leaving the mediaeval 
copies as their sole record. In the Welsh Mabin- 
ogion the same process is apparent. Peculiarities 
in the existing manuscripts show plainly enough 
that they must have been copied from some more 
archaic text. Besides this, they are, as they at 
present stand, obviously made up of earlier tales 
pieced together. Almost as clearly as the Gaelic 
manuscripts, the Welsh point us back to older and 
more primitive forms. 

The ancient legends of the Gael and the Briton 
are thus shown to have been no mere inventions of 
scholarly monks in the Middle Ages. We have now 
to trace, if possible, the date, not necessarily of their 
first appearance on men's lips, but of their first redac- 
tion into writing in approximately the form in which 
we have them now. 

Circumstantial evidence can be adduced to prove 
that the most important portions both of Gaelic 

14 Mythology of the British Islands 

and British early literature can be safely relegated 
to a period of several centuries prior to their now- 
existing record. Our earliest version of the episode 
of the Tdin B6 Chuailgnt, which is the nucleus and 
centre of the ancient Gaelic heroic cycle of which 
Cuchulainn, fortissimus heros Scotorum, is the prin- 
cipal figure, is found in the twelfth-century Book of 
the Dun Cow. But legend tells us that at the be- 
ginning of the seventh century the Saga had not 
only been composed, but had actually become so 
obsolete as to have been forgotten by the bards. 
Their leader, one Senchan Torpeist, a historical 
character, and chief bard of Ireland at that time, 
obtained permission from the Saints to call Fergus, 
Cuchulainn's contemporary, and a chief actor in the 
" Raid", from the dead, and received from the resur- 
rected hero a true and full version. This tradition, 
dealing with a real personage, surely shows that the 
story of the Tdin was known before the time of 
Senchan, and probably preserves the fact, either 
that his version of Cuchulainn's famous deeds 
became the accepted one, or that he was the first 
to reduce it to writing. An equally suggestive con- 
sideration approximately fixes for us the earliest 
redaction of the Welsh mythological prose tales 
called the " Mabinogion ", or, more correctly speak- 
ing, the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi ".* In 
none of these is there the slightest mention, or 
apparently the least knowledge, of Arthur, around 
whom and whose supposed contemporaries centres 
the mass of British legend as it was transmitted by 

1 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian t*gend t chap, i 

Sources of our Knowledge 1 5 

the Welsh to the Normans. These mysterious 
mythological records must in all probability, there- 
fore, antedate the Arthurian cycle of myth, which 
was already being put into form in the sixth cen- 
tury. On the other hand, the characters of the 
" Four Branches " are mentioned without comment 
as though they were personages with whom no 
one could fail to be familiar in the supposed sixth- 
century poems contained in those " Four Ancient 
Books of Wales'" in which are found the first 
meagre references to the British hero. 

Such considerations as these throw back, with 
reasonable certainty, the existence of the Irish and 
Welsh poems and prose tales, in something like 
their present shape, to a period antedating the 
seventh century. 

But this, again, means only that the myths, tradi- 
tions, and legends were current at that to us early, 
but to them, in their actual substance, late date, in 
literary form. A mythology must always be far 
older than the oldest verses and stories that cele- 
brate it Elaborate poems and sagas are not made 
in a day, or in a year. The legends of the Gaelic 
and British gods and heroes could not have sprung, 
like Athena from the head of Zeus, full-born out of 
some poet's brain. The bard who first put them 
into artistic shape was setting down the primitive 
traditions of his race. We may therefore venture 
to describe them as not of the twelfth century or 
of the seventh, but as of a prehistoric and imme- 
morial antiquity. 

Internal evidence bears this out An examination 

1 6 Mythology of the British Islands 

of both the Gaelic and British legendary romances 
shows, under embellishing details added by later 
hands, an inner core of primeval thought which 
brings them into line with the similar ideas of other 
races in the earliest stage of culture. Their " local 
colour " may be that of their last "editor 7 ', but their 
" plots " are pre-mediaeval, pre-Christian, pre-historic. 
The characters of early Gaelic legend belong to the 
same stamp of imagination that created Olympian 
and Titan, /Esir and Jotun. We must go far to 
the back of civilized thought to find parallels to such 
a story as that in which the British sun-god, struck 
by a rival in love with a poisoned spear, is turned 
into an eagle, from whose wound great pieces of 
carrion are continually falling. 1 

This aspect of the Celtic literary records was 
clearly seen, and eloquently expressed, by Matthew 
Arnold in his Study of Celtic Literature? He was 
referring to the Welsh side, but his image holds 
good equally for the Gaelic. " The first thing that 
strikes one ", he says, " in reading the Mabinogion is 
how evidently the mediaeval story-teller is pillaging 
an antiquity of which he does not fully possess the 
secret: he is like a peasant building his hut on the 
site of Halicarnassus or Ephesus; he builds, but 
what he builds is full of materials of which he knows 
not the history, or knows by a glimmering tradition 
merely : stones * not of this building ', but of an older 
architecture, greater, cunninger, more majestical." 
His heroes "are no mediaeval personages: they be- 
long to an older, pagan, mythological world ". So, 

* Sec chap, xvi of this book" The Gods of the Britons ". * Lecture II. 

Sources of our Knowledge 1 7 

too, with the figures, however euhemerized, of the 
three great Gaelic cycles: that of the Tuatha D6 
Danann, of the Heroes of Ulster, of Finn and the 
Fenians. Their divinity outshines their humanity; 
through their masks may be seen the faces of gods. 
Yet, gods as they are, they had taken on the 
semblance of mortality by the time their histories 
were fixed in the form in which we have them now. 
Their earliest records, if those could be restored to 
us, would doubtless show them eternal and undying, 
changing their shapes at will, but not passing away. 
But the post-Christian copyists, whether Irish or 
Welsh, would not countenance this. Hence we 
have the singular paradox of the deaths of Im- 
mortals. There is hardly one of the figures of 
either the Gaelic or the British Pantheon whose 
demise is not somewhere recorded. Usually they 
fell in the unceasing battles between the divinities 
of darkness and of light. Their deaths in earlier 
cycles of myth, however, do not preclude their ap- 
pearance in later ones. Only, indeed, with the 
closing of the lips of the last mortal who preserved 
his tradition can the life of a god be truly said to 



But, before proceeding to recount the myths of 
the "Ancient Britons ", it will be well to decide 
what people, exactly, we mean by that loose but 
convenient phrase. We have, all of us, vague ideas 
of Ancient Britons, recollected, doubtless, from our 
school - books. There we saw their pictures as, 
painted with woad, they paddled coracles, or drove 
scythed chariots through legions of astonished 
Romans. Their Druids, white-bearded and wear- 
ing long, white robes, cut the mistletoe with a golden 
sickle at the time of the full moon, or, less innocently 
employed, made bonfires of human beings shut up 
in gigantic figures of wicker-work. 

Such picturesque details were little short of the 
sum-total, not only of our own knowledge of the 
subject, but also of that of our teachers. Practically 
all their information concerning the ancient inhabit- 
ants of Britain was taken from the Commentaries of 
Julius Caesar. So far as it went, it was no doubt 
correct; but it did not go far. Caesar's interest in 
our British ancestors was that of a general who was 
his own war-correspondent rather than that of an 
exhaustive and painstaking scientist It has been 
reserved for modern archaeologists, philologists, and 

Who were the "Ancient Britons"? 19 

ethnologists to give us a fuller account of the 
Ancient Britons. 

The inhabitants of our islands previous to the 
Roman invasion are generally described as " Celts ". 
But they must have been largely a mixed race ; and 
the people with whom they mingled must have modi- 
fied to some and perhaps to a large extent their 
physique, their customs, and their language. 

Speculation has run somewhat wild over the 
question of the composition of the Early Britons. 
But out of the clash of rival theories there emerges 
one and one only which may be considered as 
scientifically established. We have certain proof of 
two distinct human stocks in the British Islands at 
the time of the Roman Conquest; and so great an 
authority as Professor Huxley has given his opinion 
that there is no evidence of any others. 1 

The earliest of these two races would seem to 
have inhabited our islands from the most ancient 
times, and may, for our purpose, be described as 
aboriginal. It was the people that built the "long 
barrows " ; and which is variously called by ethnolo- 
gists the Iberian, Mediterranean, Berber, Basque, 
Silurian, or Euskarian race. In physique it was 
short, swarthy, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and long- 
skulled; its language belonged to the class called 
" Hamitic ", the surviving types of which are found 
among the Gallas, Abyssinians, Berbers, and other 
North African tribes; and it seems to have come 
originally from some part either of Eastern, North- 
ern, or Central Africa. Spreading thence, it was 

1 Huxley: On Some Fixed Points in British Ethnology. 1871, 

2O Mythology of the British Islands 

probably the first people to inhabit the Valley of 
the Nile, and it sent offshoots into Syria and Asia 
Minor. The earliest Hellenes found it in Greece 
under the name of "Pelasgoi"; the earliest Latins 
in Italy, as the " Etruscans"; and the Hebrews in 
Palestine, as the "Hittites". It spread northward 
through Europe as far as the Baltic, and westward, 
along the Atlas chain, to Spain, France, and our 
own islands. 1 In many countries it reached a com- 
paratively high level of civilization, but in Britain 
its development must have been early checked. We 
can discern it as an agricultural rather than a 
pastoral people, still in the Stone Age, dwelling 
in totemistic tribes on hills whose summits it forti- 
fied elaborately, and whose slopes it cultivated on 
what is called the " terrace system ", and having a 
primitive culture which ethnologists think to have 
much resembled that of the present hill - tribes 
of Southern India. 2 It held our islands till the 
coming of the Celts, who fought with the aborigines, 
dispossessed them of the more fertile parts, subju- 
gated them, even amalgamated with them, but 
certainly never extirpated them. In the time of the 
Romans they were still practically independent in 
South Wales. In Ireland they were long uncon- 
quered, and are found as allies rather than serfs of 
the Gaels, ruling their own provinces, and preserving 
their own customs and religion. Nor, in spite of all 
the successive invasions of Great Britain and Ireland, 

1 Scrgi : The Mediterranean Race. 

2 Gomme: The Village Community. Chap. IV " The non-Aryan Elements in 
the English Village Community". 

Who were the "Ancient Britons"? 21 

are they yet extinct, or so merged as to have lost 
their type, which is still the predominant one in 
many parts of the west both of Britain and Ireland, 
and is believed by some ethnologists to be generally 
upon the increase all over England. 

The second of the two races was the exact oppo- 
site to the first It was the tall, fair, light-haired, 
blue- or gray -eyed, broad -headed people called, 
popularly, the " Celts ", who belonged in speech 
to the "Aryan" family, their language finding its 
affinities in Latin, Greek, Teutonic, Slavic, the 
Zend of Ancient Persia, and the Sanscrit of Ancient 
India. Its original home was probably somewhere 
in Central Europe, along the course of the upper 
Danube, or in the region of the Alps. The "round 
barrows " in which it buried its dead, or deposited 
their burnt ashes, differ in shape from the "long 
barrows " of the earlier race. It was in a higher 
stage of culture than the " Iberians ", and intro- 
duced into Britain bronze and silver, and, perhaps, 
some of the more lately domesticated animals. 

Both Iberians and Celts were divided into numer- 
ous tribes, but there is nothing to show that there 
was any great diversity among the former. It is 
otherwise with the Celts, who were separated into 
two main branches which came over at different 
times. The earliest were the Goidels, or Gaels; the 
second, the Brythons, or Britons. Between these 
two branches there was not only a dialectical, but 
probably, also, a considerable physical difference. 
Some anthropologists even postulate a different 
shape of skull. Without necessarily admitting this, 

22 Mythology of the British Islands 

there is reason to suppose a difference of build and 
of colour of hair. With regard to this, we have the 
evidence of Latin writers of Tacitus, 1 who tells us 
that the " Caledonians " of the North differed from 
the Southern Britons in being larger-limbed and 
redder-haired, and of Strabo, 2 who described the 
tribes in the interior of Britain as taller than the 
Gaulish colonists on the coast, with hair less yellow 
and limbs more loosely knit. Equally do the classic 
authorities agree in recognizing the " Silures " of 
South Wales as an entirely different race from any 
other in Britain. The dark complexions and curly 
hair of these Iberians seemed to Tacitus to prove 
them immigrants from Spain. 8 

Professor Rhys also puts forward evidence to 
show that the Goidels and the Brythons had already 
separated before they first left Gaul for our islands. 4 
He finds them as two distinct peoples there. We 
do not expect so much nowadays from " the merest 
school-boy " as we did in Macaulay's time, but even 
the modern descendant of that paragon could pro- 
bably tell us that all Gaul was divided into three 
parts, one of which was inhabited by the Belgae, 
another by the Aquitani, and the third by those 
who called themselves Celtae, but were termed 
Galli by the Romans; and that they all differed 
from one another in language, customs, and laws. 6 
Of these, Professor Rhys identifies the Belgae with 
the Brythons, and the Celtae with the Goidels, the 

1 Tacitus : Agricola t chap. XI. s Strabo : Geographic^ Book IV, chap. v. 
1 Tacitus, op. cit. 

4 Rhys: The Early Ethnology of the British Islands. Scottish Review. April, 
1890, Caesar: De Bello Gallico, Book I, chap. I. 

Who were the "Ancient Britons"? 23 

third people, the Aquitani, being non- Celtic and 
non- Aryan, part of the great Hamitic - speaking 
Iberian stock. 1 The Celtae, with their Goidelic 
dialect of Celtic, which survives to-day in the Gaelic 
languages of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, 
were the first to come over to Britain, pushed for- 
ward, probably, by the Belgae, who, Caesar tells us, 
were the bravest of the Gauls. 2 Here they con- 
quered the native Iberians, driving them out of the 
fertile parts into the rugged districts of the north 
and west. Later came the Belgae themselves, 
compelled by press of population; and they, bring- 
ing better weapons and a higher civilization, treated 
the Goidels as those had treated the Iberians. 
Thus harried, the Goidels probably combined with 
the Iberians against what was now the common foe, 
and became to a large degree amalgamated with 
them. The result was that during the Roman 
domination the British Islands were roughly divided 
with regard to race as follows: The Brythons, or 
second Celtic race, held all Britain south of the 
Tweed, with the exception of the extreme west, 
while the first Celtic race, the Goidelic, had most 
of Ireland, as well as the Isle of Man, Cumberland, 
the West Highlands, Cornwall, Devon, and North 
Wales. North of the Grampians lived the Picts, 
who were probably more or less Goidelicized Ibe- 
rians, the aboriginal race also holding out, unmixed, 
in South Wales and parts of Ireland. 

It is now time to decide what, for the purposes 
of this book, it will be best to call the two different 

1 Rhys: Scottish Review. April, 1890. * Op. Caesar, op. cit. 

24 Mythology of the British Islands 

branches of the Celts, and their languages. With 
such familiar terms as " Gael " and " Briton ", 
" Gaelic " and " British ", ready to our hands, it 
seems pedantic to insist upon the more technical 
"Goidel" and "Brython", "Goidelic" and " Bry- 
thonic ". The difficulty is that the words " Gael " 
and " Gaelic " have been so long popularly used to 
designate only the modern " Goidels " of Scotland 
and their language, that they may create confusion 
when also applied to the people and languages of 
Ireland and the Isle of Man. Similarly, the words 
" Briton " and " British " have come to mean, at the 
present day, the people of the whole of the British 
Islands, though they at first only signified the in- 
habitants of England, Central Wales, the Lowlands 
of Scotland, and the Bry thonic colony in Brittany. 
However, the words " Goidel" and "Brython", 
with their derivatives, are so clumsy that it will 
probably prove best to use the neater terms. In 
this volume, therefore, the "Goidels" of Ireland, 
Scotland, and the Isle of Man are our " Gaels " and 
the "Brythons" of England and Wales are our 

We get the earliest accounts of the life of the 
inhabitants of the British Islands from two sources. 
The first is a foreign one, that of the Latin writers. 
But the Romans only really knew the Southern 
Britons, whom they describe as similar in physique 
and customs to the Continental Gauls, with whom, 
indeed, they considered them to be identical. 1 At 
the time they wrote, colonies of Belgae were still 

1 Tacitus : Agricola t chap. XI. 

Who were the ^Ancient Britons^? 25 

settling upon the coasts of Britain opposite to Gaul. 1 
Roman information grew scantier as it approached 
the Wall, and of the Northern tribes they seem to 
have had only such knowledge as they gathered 
through occasional warfare with them. They describe 
them as entirely barbarous, naked and tattooed, 
living by the chase alone, without towns, houses, 
or fields, without government or family life, and re- 
garding iron as an ornament of value, as other, more 
civilized peoples regarded gold. 2 As for Ireland, 
it never came under their direct observation, and we 
are entirely dependent upon its native writers for 
information as to the manners and customs of the 
Gaels. It may be considered convincing proof of 
the authenticity of the descriptions of life contained 
in the ancient Gaelic manuscripts that they corrobo- 
rate so completely the observations of the Latin 
writers upon the Britons and Gauls. Reading the 
two side by side, we may largely reconstruct the 
common civilization of the Celts. 

Roughly speaking, one may compare it with the 
civilization of the Greeks, as described by Homer. 8 
Both peoples were in the tribal and pastoral stage 
of culture, in which the chiefs are the great cattle- 
owners round whom their less wealthy fellows gather. 
Both wear much the same attire, use the same kind 
of weapons, and fight in the same manner from 
the war-chariot, a vehicle already obsolete even in 
Ireland by the first century of the Christian era. 

1 Caesar : De Bellico Gallico, Book V, chap. xil. 

2 Elton: Origins of English History, chap. vii. 

8 See 4< La Civilisation des Ctltes tt celle de V Epopde HomMque", by M. d'Arbois 
de Jubainville, Cours de Literature Celtique, Vol. VI. 

26 Mythology of the British Islands 

Battles are fought single-handed between chiefs, the 
ill-armed common people contributing little to their 
result, and less to their history. Such chiefs are 
said to be divinely descended sons, even, of the 
immortal gods. Their tremendous feats are sung 
by the bards, who, like the Homeric poets, were 
privileged persons, inferior only to the war - lord. 
Ancient Greek and Ancient Celt had very much the 
same conceptions of life, both as regards this world 
and the next. 

We may gather much detailed information of the 
early inhabitants of the British Islands from our 
various authorities. 1 Their clothes, which consisted, 
according to the Latin writers, of a blouse with 
sleeves, trousers fitting closely round the ankles, 
and a shawl or cloak, fastened at the shoulder with 
a brooch, were made either of thick felt or of 
woven cloth dyed with various brilliant colours. 
The writer Diodorus tells us that they were crossed 
with little squares and lines, "as though they had 
been sprinkled with flowers ". They were, in fact, 
like " tartans ", and we may believe Varro, who 
tells us that they "made a gaudy show ". The 
men alone seem to have worn hats, which were 
of soft felt, the women's hair being uncovered, 
and tied in a knot behind. In time of battle, 
the men also dispensed with any head-covering, 
brushing their abundant hair forward into a thick 
mass, and dyeing it red with a soap made of 
goat's fat and beech ashes, until they looked (says 
Cicero's tutor Posidonius, who visited Britain about 

1 See Elton: Origins of English History, chap. vil. 

Who were the "Ancient Britons^? 27 

no B.C.) less like human beings than wild men of 
the woods. Both sexes were fond of ornaments, 
which took the form of gold bracelets, , rings, pins, 
and brooches, and of beads of amber, glass, and jet. 
Their knives, daggers, spear-heads, axes, and swords 
were made of bronze or iron; their shields were the 
same round target used by the Highlanders at the 
battle of Culloden ; and they seem also to have had 
a kind of lasso to which a hammer-shaped ball was 
attached, and which they used as the Gauchos of 
South America use their do/a. Their war-chariots 
were made of wicker, the wooden wheels being 
armed with sickles of bronze. These were drawn 
either by two or four horses, and were large enough 
to hold several persons in each. Standing in these, 
they rushed along the enemy's lines, hurling darts, 
and driving the scythes against all who came within 
reach. The Romans were much impressed by the 
skill of the drivers, who " could check their horses 
at full speed on a steep incline, and turn them in an 
instant, and could run along the pole, and stand on 
the yoke, and then get back into their chariots 
again without a moment's delay". 1 

With these accounts of the Roman writers we 
may compare the picture of the Gaelic hero, Cuchu- 
lainn, as the ancient Irish writers describe him 
dressed and armed for battle. Glorified by the 
bard, he yet wears essentially the same costume 
and equipment which the classic historians and 
geographers described more soberly. " His gor- 
geous raiment that he wore in great conventions " 

1 Caesar: De Bdlo Gallico, Book IV, chap. xxxm. 

28 Mythology of the British Islands 

consisted of " a fair crimson tunic of five plies and 
fringed, with a long pin of white silver, gold-enchased 
and patterned, shining as if it had been a luminous 
torch which for its blazing property and brilliance 
men might not endure to see. Next his skin, a 
body-vest of silk, bordered and fringed all round 
with gold, with silver, and with white bronze, which 
vest came as far as the upper edge of his russet- 
coloured kilt. . . . About his neck were a hundred 
linklets of red gold that flashed again, with pendants 
hanging from them. His head-gear was adorned 
with a hundred mixed carbuncle jewels, strung/ 1 
He carried "a trusty special shield, in hue dark 
crimson, and in its circumference armed with a pure 
white silver rim. At his left side a long and golden- 
hiked sword. Beside him, in the chariot, a lengthy 
spear; together with a keen, aggression - boding 
javelin, fitted with hurling thong, with rivets of 
white bronze." 1 Another passage of Gaelic saga 
describes his chariot. It was made of fine wood, 
with wicker-work, moving on wheels of white bronze. 
It had a high rounded frame of creaking copper, 
a strong curved yoke of gold, and a pole of white 
silver, with mountings of white bronze. The yellow 
reins were plaited, and the shafts were as hard and 
straight as sword-blades. 2 

In like manner the ancient Irish writers have 
made glorious the halls and fortresses of their 
mythical kings. Like the palaces of Priam, of 
Menelaus, and of Odysseus, they gleam with gold 

1 From the Tdin B6 Chuailgnt. The translator is Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady. 
1 Tochmarc Emire the Wooing of Emer an old Irish romance. 

Who were the "Ancient Britons"? 29 

and gems. Conchobar, 1 the legendary King of 
Ulster in its golden age, had three such "houses" 
at Emain Macha. Of the one called the "Red 
Branch ", we are told that it contained nine com- 
partments of red yew, partitioned by walls of bronze, 
all grouped around the king's private chamber, 
which had a ceiling of silver, and bronze pillars 
adorned with gold and carbuncles. 2 But the far 
less magnificent accounts of the Latin writers have, 
no doubt, more truth in them than such lavish 
pictures. They described the Britons they knew 
as living in villages of bee-hive huts, roofed with 
fern or thatch, from which, at the approach of an 
enemy, they retired to the local dim. This, so far 
from being elaborate, merely consisted of a round 
or oval space fenced in with palisades and earth- 
works, and situated either upon the top of a hill or 
in the midst of a not easily traversable morass. 8 We 
may see the remains of such strongholds in many 
parts of England notable ones are the " castles " of 
/Vmesbury, Avebury, and Old Sarum in Wiltshire, 
Saint Catherine's Hill, near Winchester, and Saint 
George's Hill, in Surrey and it is probable that, in 
spite of the Celtic praisers of past days, the " palaces" 
of Emain Macha and of Tara were very like them. 

The Celtic customs were, like the Homeric, those 
of the primitive world. All land (though it may 
have theoretically belonged to the chief) was culti- 
vated in common. This community of possessions 

1 Sometimes spelt "Conachar", and pronounced Conhower or Connor. 

2 The Wooing of Enter. 

3 Caesar : De Bello Galileo, Book V, chap, KXk, a,n4 various passages in 
Book VII. 

30 Mythology of the British Islands 

is stated by Caesar 1 to have extended to their wives; 
but the imputation cannot be said to have been 
proved On the contrary, in the stories of both 
branches of the Celtic race, women seem to have 
taken a higher place in men's estimation, and to 
have enjoyed far more personal liberty, than among 
the Homeric Greeks. The idea may have arisen 
from a misunderstanding of some of the curious 
Celtic customs. Descent seems to have been traced 
through the maternal rather than through the pa- 
ternal line, a very un-Aryan procedure which some 
believe to have been borrowed from another race. 
The parental relation was still further lessened by 
the custom of sending children to be brought up 
outside the family in which they were born, so that 
they had foster-parents to whom they were as much, 
or even more, attached than to their natural ones. 

Their political state, mirroring their family life, 
was not less primitive. There was no central 
tribunal. Disputes were settled within the families 
in which they occurred, while, in the case of graver 
injuries, the injured party or his nearest relation 
could kill the culprit or exact a fine from him. As 
families increased in number, they became petty 
tribes, often at war with one another. A defeated 
tribe had to recognize the sovereignty of the head 
man of the conquering tribe, and a succession of 
such victories exalted him into the position of a 
chief of his district. But even then, though his 
decision was the whole of the law, he was little 
more than the mouthpiece of public opinion. 

d.t chap. xiv. 




The ancient inhabitants of Britain the Gaelic 
and British Celts have been already described as 
forming a branch of what are roughly called the 
" Aryans ". This name has, however, little reference 
to race, and really signifies the speakers of a group 
of languages which can be all shown to be con- 
nected, and to descend remotely from a single source 
a hypothetical mother-tongue spoken by a hypo- 
thetical people which we term "Aryan", or, more 
correctly, " Indo-European ". This primeval speech, 
evolved, probably, upon some part of the great 
plain which stretches from the mountains of Central 
Europe to the mountains of Central Asia, has spread, 
superseding, or amalgamating with the tongues of 
other races, until branches of it are spoken over 
almost the whole of Europe and a great portion 
of Asia. All the various Latin, Greek, Slavic, 
Teutonic, and Celtic languages are "Aryan", 
as well as Persian and other Asiatic dialects 
derived from the ancient "Zend", and the numer- 
ous Indian languages which trace their origin to 

Not very long ago, it was supposed that this 


32 Mythology of the British Islands 

common descent of language involved a common 
descent of blood. A real brotherhood was enthusi- 
astically claimed for all the principal European 
nations, who were also invited to recognize Hindus 
and Persians as their long-lost cousins. Since then, 
it has been conceded that, while the Aryan speech 
survived, though greatly modified, the Aryan blood 
might well have disappeared, diluted beyond recog- 
nition by crossing with the other races whom the 
Aryans conquered, or among whom they more or less 
peacefully settled. As a matter of fact, there are no 
European nations perhaps no people at all except 
a few remote savage tribes which are not made up 
of the most diverse elements. Aryan and non- Aryan 
long ago blended inextricably, to form by their fusion 
new peoples. 

But, just as the Aryan speech influenced the new 
languages, and the Aryan customs the new civiliza- 
tions, so we can still discern in the religions of the 
Aryan-speaking nations similar ideas and expressions 
pointing to an original source of mythological con- 
ceptions. Hence, whether we investigate the myth- 
ology of the Hindus, the Greeks, the Teutons, or 
the Celts, we find the same mythological ground- 
work. In each, we see the powers of nature per- 
sonified, and endowed with human form and attri- 
butes, though bearing, with few exceptions, different 
names. Like the Vedic brahmans, the Greek and 
Latin poets, and the Norse scalds, the Celtic bards 
whether Gaels or Britons imagined the sky, the 
sun, the moon, the earth, the sea, and the dark 
underwo/ld, as well as the mountains, tne streams, 

V'!' 1 , ' ''* f T 1 '' '? 

From the Drawing by . Wai/cousins 

Religion of the Ancient Britons 33 

and the woods, to be ruled by beings like their own 
chiefs, but infinitely more powerful; every passion, 
as War and Love, and every art, as Poetry and 
Smithcraft, had its divine founder, teacher, and 
exponent ; and of all these deities and their imagined 
children, they wove the poetical and allegorical 
romances which form the subject of the present 

Like other nations, too, whether Aryan or non- 
Aryan, the Celts had, besides their mythology, a 
religion. It is not enough to tell tales of shadowy 
gods; they must be made visible by sculpture, 
housed in groves or temples, served with ritual, 
and propitiated with sacrifices, if one is to hope 
for their favours. Every cult must have its priests 
living by the altar. 

The priests of the Celts are well-known to us by 
name as the " Druids " a word derived from a root 
DR which signifies a tree, and especially the oak, in 
several Aryan languages. 1 This is generally though 
not by all scholars taken as proving that they paid 
an especial veneration to the king of trees. It is 
true that the mistletoe that strange parasite upon 
the oak was prominent among their " herbs of 
power", and played a part in their ritual; 2 but this is 
equally true of other Aryan nations. By the Norse 
it was held sacred to the god Balder, while the 
Romans believed it to be the "golden bough " that 
gave access to Hades. 8 

1 See Schrader: Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples^ pp. 138, $73. 
8 A description of the Druidical cult of the mistletoe is given by Pliny: Natural 
History, XVI, chap. xcv. See Frazer: The Golden Bou%h> chap. IV. 


34 Mythology of the British Islands 

The accounts both of the Latin and Gaelic writers 
give us a fairly complete idea of the nature of the 
Druids, and especially of the high estimation in 
which they were held. They were at once the 
priests, the physicians, the wizards, the diviners, the 
theologians, the scientists, and the historians of their 
tribes. All spiritual power and all human know- 
ledge were vested in them, and they ranked second 
only to the kings and chiefs. They were freed from 
all contribution to the State, whether by tribute or 
service in war, so that they might the better apply 
themselves to their divine offices. Their decisions 
were absolutely final, and those who disobeyed them 
were laid under a terrible excommunication or 
" boycott V Classic writers tell us how they lorded 
it in Gaul, where, no doubt, they borrowed splendour 
by imitating their more civilized neighbours. Men 
of the highest rank were proud to cast aside the 
insignia of mere mortal honour to join the company 
of those who claimed to be the direct mediators with 
the sky-god and the thunder-god, and who must 
have resembled the ecclesiastics of mediaeval Europe 
in the days of their greatest power, combining, like 
them, spiritual and temporal dignities, and possessing 
the highest culture of their age. Yet it was not 
among these Druids of Gaul, with their splendid 
temples and vestments and their elaborate rituals, 
that the metropolis of Druidism was to be sought. 
We learn from Caesar that the Gallic Druids be- 

1 Caesar: Dt Bello Gallico, Book VI, chaps, xm, xiv. But for a full exposition 
of what is known of the Druids the reader is referred to M. d'Arbois de Jubainville's 
Introduction d Vltude de la Litttratnre Celtique, Vol. I of hjs Cours de LiMratore 

Religion of the Ancient Britons 35 

lieved their religion to have come to them, originally, 
from Britain, and that it was their practice to send 
their " theological students " across the Channel to 
learn its doctrines at their purest source. 1 To trace 
a cult backwards is often to take a retrograde course 
in culture, and it was no doubt in Britain which 
Pliny the Elder tells us " might have taught magic 
to Persia " 2 that the sufficiently primitive and 
savage rites of the Druids of Gaul were preserved 
in their still more savage and primitive forms. It is 
curious corroboration of this alleged British origin of 
Druidism that the ancient Irish also believed their 
Druidism to have come from the sister island. Their 
heroes and seers are described as only gaining the 
highest knowledge by travelling to Alba. 8 However 
this may be, we may take it as certain that this Druid- 
ism was the accepted religion of the Celtic race. 

Certain scholars look deeper for its origin, hold- 
ing its dark superstitions and savage rites to bear 
the stamp of lower minds than those of the poetic 
and manly Celts. Professor Rhys inclines to see 
three forms of religion in the British Islands at the 
time of the Roman invasion: the " Druidism" of 
the Iberian aborigines; the pure polytheism of the 
Brythons, who, having come later into the country, 
had mixed but little with the natives; and the 
mingled Aryan and non-Aryan cults of the Goidels, 
who were already largely amalgamated with them. 4 

i Caesar: De Bello Gallico, Book VI, chap. xill. 
Pliny : Natural History, XXX. 
1 See chap. XII, The Irish Iliad. 

4 Rhys: Celtic Britain, chap. n. Sec also Gomme: Ethnology in Folk-lore^ 
pp. 58-62 ; 1 r illa%e Community, p. 104. 

36 Mythology of the British Islands 

But many authorities dissent from this view, and, 
indeed, we are not obliged to postulate borrowing 
from tribes in a lower state of culture, to explain 
primitive and savage features underlying a higher 
religion. The " Aryan" nations must have passed, 
equally with all others, through a state of pure 
savagery; and we know that the religion of the 
Greeks, in many respects so lofty, sheltered features 
and legends as barbarous as any that can be attri- 
buted to the Celts. 1 

Of the famous teaching of the Druids we know 
little, owing to their habit of never allowing their 
doctrines to be put into writing. Caesar, however, 
roughly records its scope. " As one of their leading 
dogmas", he says, "they inculcate this: that souls 
are not annihilated, but pass after death from one 
body to another, and they hold that by this teaching 
men are much encouraged to valour, through dis- 
regarding the fear of death. They also discuss and 
impart to the young many things concerning the 
heavenly bodies and their movements, the size of 
the world and of our earth, natural science, and of 
the influence and power of the immortal gods/' 2 
The Romans seem to have held their wisdom in 
some awe, though it is not unlikely that the Druids 
themselves borrowed whatever knowledge they may 
have had of science and philosophy from the clas- 
sical culture. That their creed of transmigration 
was not, however, merely taken over from the 
Greeks seems certain from its appearance in the 

1 Abundant evidence of this is contained in Pausanias' Description of Greece. 
9 Caesar : f)e Bella G^llico, Book VI, chap. xiy. 

Religion of the Ancient Britons 37 

ancient Gaelic myths. Not only the " shape-shift- 
ing " common to the magic stories of all nations, but 
actual reincarnation was in the power of privileged 
beings. The hero Cuchulainn was urged by the 
men of Ulster to marry, because they knew " that 
his rebirth would be of himself V and they did not 
wish so great a warrior to be lost to their tribe. 
Another legend tells how the famous Finn mac Coul 
was reborn, after two hundred years, as an Ulster 
king called Mongan. 2 

Such ideas, however, belonged to the metaphysical 
side of Druidism. Far more important to the prac- 
tical primitive mind are ritual and sacrifice, by the 
due performance of which the gods are persuaded 
or compelled to grant earth's increase and length of 
days to men. Among the Druids, this humouring of 
the divinities took the shape of human sacrifice, and 
that upon a scale which would seem to have been 
unsurpassed in horror even by the most savage 
tribes of West Africa or Polynesia. " The whole 
Gaulish nation ", says Caesar, " is to a great degree 
devoted to superstitious rites; and on this account 
those who are afflicted with severe diseases, or who 
are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice 
human beings for victims, or vow that they will 
immolate themselves, and these employ the Druids 
as ministers for such sacrifices, because they think 
that, unless the life of man be repaid for the life 
of man, the will of the immortal gods cannot be 

*The Wooing of Emer. 

f It is contained in the Book of the Dun Cow, and has been translated or com- 
mented upon by Eugene O 'Curry (Manners and Customs of the Ancient MsA) t 
De Jubainviile (Cycle Mythologique Irlandais), and Nutt ( Voyage of Bran). 

38 Mythology of the British Islands 

appeased. They also ordain national offerings of the 
same kind. Others make wicker-work images of 
vast size, the limbs of which they fill with living men 
and set on fire." 1 

We find evidence of similarly awful customs in 
pagan Ireland. Among the oldest Gaelic records 
are tracts called Dinnsenchus, in which famous places 
are enumerated, together with the legends relating 
to them. Such topographies are found in several of 
the great Irish mediaeval manuscripts, and therefore, 
of course, received their final transcription at the 
hands of Christian monks. But these ecclesiastics 
rarely tampered with compositions in elaborate 
verse. Nor can it be imagined that any monastic 
scribe could have invented such a legend as this one 
which describes the practice of human sacrifice among 
the ancient Irish. The poem (which is found in the 
Books of Leinster, of Ballymote, of Lecan, and in a 
document called the Rennes MS.) 2 records the reason 
why a spot near the present village of Ballymagauran, 
in County Cavan, received the name of Mag Slecht, 
the " Plain of Adoration ". 

" Here used to be 
A high idol with many fights, 
Which was named the Cromm Cruaich; 
It made every tribe to be without peace. 

"'Twas a sad evil! 
Brave Gaels used to worship it 

i Caesar : De Bello Gallico, Book VI, chap. xvi. 

*The following translation was made by Dr. Kuno Meyer, and appears as 
Appendix B to Nutt's Voyage of Bran. Three verses, here omitted, will be found 
later as a note to chap, xn " The Irish Iliad ". 

Religion of the Ancient Britons 39 

From it they would not without tribute ask 

To be satisfied as to their portion of the hard world. 

" He was their god, 

The withered Cromm with many mists, 
The people whom he shook over every host, 
The everlasting kingdom they shall not have. 

" To him without glory 

They would kill their piteous, wretched offspring 
With much wailing and peril, 
To pour their blood around Cromm Cruaich. 

" Milk and corn 

They would ask from him speedily 
In return for one-third of their healthy issue: 
Great was the horror and the scare of him, 

"To him 

Noble Gaels would prostrate themselves, 
From the worship of him, with many manslaughters, 
The plain is called " Mag Slecht ". 


"They did evil, 

They beat their palms, they pounded their bodies, 
Wailing to the demon who enslaved them, 
They shed falling showers of tears. 


"Around Cromm Cruaich 
There the hosts would prostrate themselves; 
Though he put them under deadly disgrace, 
Their name clings to the noble plain. 

* In their ranks (stood) 
Four times three stone idols; 
To bitterly beguile the hosts, 
The figure of the Cromm was made of gold. 

40 Mythology of the British Islands 

"Since the rule 

Of Herimon 1 , the noble man of grace, 
There was worshipping of stones 
Until the coming of good Patrick of Macha. 

"A sledge-hammer to the Cromm 
He applied from crown to sole, 
He destroyed without lack of valour 
The feeble idol which was there." 

Such, we gather from a tradition which we may 
deem authentic, was human sacrifice in early Ireland. 
According to the quoted verse, one third of the 
healthy children were slaughtered, presumably every 
year, to wrest from the powers of nature the grain 
and grass upon which the tribes and their cattle sub- 
sisted. In a prose dinnsenchus preserved in the 
Rennes MS., 2 there is a slight variant. " T is 
there", (at Mag Slecht), it runs, " was the king idol 
of Erin, namely the Crom Croich, and around him 
were twelve idols made of stones, but he was of 
gold. Until Patrick's advent he was the god of 
every folk that colonized Ireland. To him they 
used to offer the firstlings of every issue and the 
chief scions of every clan." The same authority 
also tells us that these sacrifices were made at 
" Hallowe'en ", which took the place, in the Chris- 
tian calendar, of the heathen Samhain " Summer's 
End " when the sun's power waned, and the 
strength of the gods of darkness, winter, and the 
underworld grew great 

i The first King of the Milesians. The name is more usually spelt Errmon. 
The Rennes Dinnsenchus has been translated by Dr. Whitley Stokes in VoL XVI 
of the Revue Celtique. 

Religion of the Ancient Britons 41 

Who, then, was this bloodthirsty deity? His 
name, Cromm Cruaich, means the " Bowed One of 
the Mound ", and was evidently applied to him only 
after his fall from godhead. It relates to the tra- 
dition that, at the approach of the all-conquering 
Saint Patrick, the " demon" fled from his golden 
image, which thereupon sank forward in the earth 
in homage to the power that had come to supersede 
it 1 But from another source we glean that the 
word cromm was a kind of pun upon cenn, and that 
the real title of the "king idol of Erin" was Cenn 
Cruaich, " Head" or " Lord" of the Mound. Pro- 
fessor Rhys, in his Celtic Heathendom? suggests that 
he was probably the Gaelic heaven-god, worshipped, 
like the Hellenic Zeus, upon "high places", natural 
or artificial. At any rate, we may see in him the 
god most revered by the Gaels, surrounded by the 
other twelve chief members of their Pantheon. 

It would appear probable that the Celtic State 
worship was what is called "solar". All its chief 
festivals related to points in the sun's progress, the 
equinoxes having been considered more important 
than the solstices. It was at the spring equinox 
(called by the Celts " Beltaine" 8 ) in every nine- 
teenth year that, we learn from Diodorus the Sicilian, 
a writer contemporary with Julius Caesar, Apollo 
himself appeared to his worshippers, and was seen 
harping and dancing in the sky until the rising of 
the Pleiades. 4 The other corresponding festival was 

1 Told in the Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick, a fifteenth-century combination of 
three very ancient Gaelic MSS. 

3 The Hibbert Lectures for 1886. Lecture II "The Zeus of the Insular Celts"- 
* Pronounced Baltinna. 4 Diodorus Stculus : Book II, chap, in 

42 Mythology of the British Islands 

"Samhain" 1 , the autumn equinox. As Beltaine 
marked the beginning of summer, so Samhain re- 
corded its end. The summer solstice was also a 
great Celtic feast. It was held at the beginning of 
August in honour of the god called Lugus by the 
Gauls, Lugh by the Gaels, and Lieu by the Britons 
the pan-Celtic Apollo, and, probably, when the 
cult of the war-god had fallen from its early pro- 
minence, the chief figure of the common Pantheon. 

It was doubtless at Stonehenge that the British 
Apollo was thus seen harping and dancing. That 
marvellous structure well corresponds to Diodorus's 
description of a " magnificent temple of Apollo" 
which he locates "in the centre of Britain". " It is 
a circular enclosure," he says, " adorned with votive 
offerings and tablets with Greek inscriptions sus- 
pended by travellers upon the walls. The rulers of 
the temple and city are called ' Boreadae' 2 , and they 
take up the government from each other according 
to the order of their tribes. The citizens are given 
up to music, harping and chanting in honour of the 
sun." 8 Stonehenge, therefore, was a sacred religious 
centre, equally revered by and equally belonging to 
all the British tribes a Rome or Jerusalem of our 
ancient paganism. 

The same great gods were, no doubt, adored by 
all the Celts, not only of Great Britain and Ireland, 
but of Continental Gaul as well. Sometimes they 
can be traced by name right across the ancient 

1 Pronounced Sowin. 

9 It has been suggested that this title is an attempt to reproduce the ancient 
British word for " bards". * Diodorus Siculus\ Book II, chap. in. 

( 3 ) Frith. 


Religion of the Ancient Britons 43 

Celtic world In other cases, what is obviously the 
same personified power of nature is found in various 
places with the same attributes, but with a different 
title. Besides these, there must have been a mul- 
titude of lesser gods, worshipped by certain tribes 
alone, to whom they stood as ancestors and guar- 
dians. " I swear by the gods of my people ", was 
the ordinary oath of a hero in the ancient Gaelic 
sagas. The aboriginal tribes must also have had 
their gods, whether it be true or not that their re- 
ligion influenced the Celtic Druidism. Professor 
Rhys inclines to see in the genii locorum, the almost 
nameless spirits of well and river, mountain and 
wood shadowy remnants of whose cults survive to- 
day, members of a swarming Pantheon of the older 
Iberians. 1 These local beings would in no way con- 
flict with the great Celtic nature-gods, and the two 
worships could exist side by side, both even claiming 
the same votary. It needs the stern faith of mono- 
theism to deny the existence of the gods of others. 
Polytheistic nations have seldom or never risen to 
such a height. In their dealings with a conquered 
people, the conquerors naturally held their own gods 
to be the stronger. Still, it could not be denied that 
the gods of the conquered were upon their own 
ground; they knew, so to speak, the country, and 
might have unguessed powers of doing evil! What 
if, to avenge their worshippers and themselves, they 
were to make the land barren and useless to the con- 
querors? So that conquering pagan nations have 
usually been quite ready to stretch out the hand of 

1 Hiblert Uctorts t 1886, Lecture I " The Gaulish Pantheon" 

44 Mythology of the British Islands 

welcome to the deities of their new subjects, to pro- 
pitiate them by sacrifice, and even to admit them 
within the pale of their own Pantheon. 

This raises the question of the exact nationality of 
the gods whose stories we are about to tell Were 
they all Aryan, or did any of the greater aboriginal 
deities climb up to take their place among the Gaelic 
tribe of the goddess Danu, or the British children 
of the goddess Don? Some of the Celtic gods have 
seemed to scholars to bear signs of a non-Aryan 
origin. 1 The point, however, is at present very 
obscure. Neither does it much concern us. Just 
as the diverse deities of the Greeks some Aryan 
and Hellenic, some pre-Aryan and Pelasgian, some 
imported and Semitic were all gathered into one 
great divine family, so we may consider as members 
of one national Olympus all these gods whose 
legends make up " The Mythology of the British 
Islands ". 

1 Sec Rhys : Lectures on Welsh Philology, pp. 426, 552, 653. 




Of the two Celtic races that settled in our islands, 
it is the earlier, the Gaels, that has best preserved 
its old mythology. It is true that we have in few 
cases such detailed account of the Gaelic gods as we 
gain of the Hellenic deities from the Greek poets, of 
the Indian Devas from the Rig Veda, or of the 
Norse /Esir from the Eddas. Yet none the less 
may we draw from the ancient Irish manuscripts 
quite enough information to enable us to set forth 
their figures with some clearness. We find them, as 
might have been anticipated, very much like the 
divine hierarchies of other Aryan peoples. 

We also find them separated into two opposing 
camps, a division common to all the Aryan religions. 
Just as the Olympians struggled with the Giants, 
the jfEsir fought the Jotuns, and the Devas the 
Asuras, so there is warfare in the Gaelic spiritual 
world between two superhuman hosts. On one side 
are ranged the gods of day, light, life, fertility, 
wisdom, and good; on the other, the demons of 
night, darkness, death, barrenness, and evil. The 
first were the great spirits symbolizing the beneficial 
aspects of nature and the arts and intelligence of 
man ; the second were the hostile powers thought to 
be behind such baneful manifestations as storm and 


48 Mythology of the British Islands 

fog, drought and disease. The first are ranged as 
a divine family round a goddess called Danu, from 
whom they took their well-known name of Tuatha 
Dt Danann? " Tribe " or " Folk of the Goddess 
Danu". The second owned allegiance to a female 
divinity called Domnu; their king, Indech, is de- 
scribed as her son, and they are all called " Domnu's 
gods". The word " Domnu " appears to have sig- 
nified the abyss or the deep sea, 2 and the same 
idea is also expressed in their better-known name of 
"Fomors", derived from two Gaelic words meaning 
" under sea". 3 The waste of water seems to have 
always impressed the Celts with the sense of prim- 
eval ancientness; it was connected in their minds 
with vastness, darkness, and monstrous births the 
very antithesis of all that was symbolized by the 
earth, the sky, and the sun. 

Therefore the Fomors were held to be more 
ancient than the gods, before whom they were, 
however, destined to fall in the end. Offspring of 
" Chaos and Old Night", they were, for the most 
part, huge and deformed. Some had but one arm 
and one leg apiece, while others had the heads of 
goats, horses, or bulls. 4 The most famous, and 
perhaps the most terrible of them all was Balor, 
whose father is said to have been one Buarainech, 
that is, the <( cow-faced", 6 and who combined in him- 
self the two classical r6les of the Cyclops and the 
Medusa. Though he had two eyes, one was always 

1 Pronounced Toodha dae donnann. 

Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, 1886. Lecture VI " Gods, Demons, and Heroes". 
*Ibid. 4 De Jubainville: Le Cycle Mythologique Mandais, chap. v. 

De Jubainville : Cycle Mythologique Irlandais, chap. IX. 

The Gods of the Gaels 49 

kept shut, for it was so venomous that it slew any- 
one on whom its look fell. This malignant quality 
of Balor's eye was not natural to him, but was the 
result of an accident Urged by curiosity, he once 
looked in at the window of a house where his 
father's sorcerers were preparing a magic potion, 
and the poisonous smoke from the cauldron reached 
his eye, infecting it with so much of its own deadly 
nature as to make it disastrous to others. Neither 
god nor giant seems to have been exempt from its 
dangers ; so that Balor was only allowed to live on 
condition that he kept his terrible eye shut. On 
days of battle he was placed opposite to the enemy, 
the lid of the destroying eye was lifted up with a 
hook, and its gaze withered all who stood before it. 
The memory of Balor and his eye still lingers in 
Ireland: the "eye of Balor " is the name for what 
the peasantry of other countries call the "evil eye"; 
stories are still told of Balar Beimann^ or " Balor of 
the Mighty Blows"; and " Balor's Castle" is the name 
of a curious cliff on Tory Island. This island, off 
the coast of Donegal, was the Fomorian outpost 
upon earth, their real abode being in the cold depths 
of the sea. 

This rule, however, as to the hideousness of the 
Fomors had its exceptions. Elathan, one of their 
chiefs, is described in an old manuscript as of 
magnificent presence a Miltonic prince of dark- 
ness. "A man of fairest form," it says, "with 
golden hair down to his shoulders. He wore a 
mantle of gold braid over a shirt interwoven with 
threads of gold. Five golden necklaces were round 

50 Mythology of the British Islands 

his neck, and a brooch of gold with a shining precious 
stone thereon was on his breast. He carried two 
silver spears with rivets of bronze, and his sword 
was golden-hilted and golden-studded/* 1 Nor was 
his son less handsome. His name was Bress, which 
means "beautiful", and we are told that every 
beautiful thing in Ireland, "whether plain, or fortress, 
or ale, or torch, or woman, or man", was compared 
with him, so that men said of them, "that is a 
Bress". 2 

Balor, Bress, and Elathan are the three Fomorian 
personages whose figures, seen through the mists of 
antiquity, show clearest to us. But they are only a 
few out of many, nor are they the oldest. We can 
learn, however, nothing but a few names of any an- 
cestors of the Gaelic giants. This is equally true of 
the Gaelic gods. Those we know are evidently not 
without parentage, but the names of their fathers are 
no more than shadows following into oblivion the 
figures they designated. The most ancient divinity 
of whom we have any knowledge is Danu herself, 
the goddess from whom the whole hierarchy of gods 
received its name of Tuatha D6 Danann. She was 
also called Anu or Ana, and her name still clings to 
two well-known mountains near Killarney, which, 
though now called simply "The Paps", were known 
formerly as the "Paps of Ana". 8 She was the 

l From the fifteenth-century Harleian MS. in the British Museum, numbered 
5280, and called the Second Battle of Moytura. * Harleian MS. 5280. 

* ' ' In Munster was worshipped the goddess of prosperity, whose name was Ana, 
and from her are named the Two Paps of Ana over Luachair Degad." From Coir 
An.-nann t the Choice of Names, a sixteenth-century tract, published by Dr. Whitlev 
Stokes in Irische Texte. 

The Gods of the Gaels 51 

universal mother; "well she used to cherish the 
gods", says the commentator of a ninth-century Irish 
glossary. 1 Her husband is never mentioned by 
name, but one may assume him, from British analo- 
gies, to have been Bil6, known to Gaelic tradition 
as a god of Hades, a kind of Celtic Dis Pater from 
whom sprang the first men. Danu herself probably 
represented the earth and its fruitfulness, and one 
might compare her with the Greek Demeter. All 
the other gods are, at least by title, her children. 
The greatest of these would seem to have been 
Nuada, called Argetldm, or "He of the Silver 
Hand". He was at once the Gaelic Zeus, or 
Jupiter, and their war-god; for among primitive 
nations, to whom success in war is all-important, the 
god of battles is the supreme god. 2 Among the 
Gauls, Camulus, whose name meant "Heaven", 8 was 
identified by the Romans with Mars; and other such 
instances come readily to the mind. He was pos- 
sessed of an invincible sword, one of the four chief 
treasures of the Tuatha D< Danann, over whom he 
was twice king; and there is little doubt that he was 
one of the most important gods of both the Gaels 
and the Britons, for his name is spread over the 
whole of the British Isles, which we may surmise 
the Celts conquered under his auspices. We may 
picture him as a more savage Mars, delighting in 
battle and slaughter, and worshipped, like his 
Gaulish affinities, Teutates and Hesus, of whom the 

1 Attributed to Cormac, King-Bishop of Cashel. 

f Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, 1886 " The Zeus of the Insular Celts ". 

8 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, 1886" The Gaulish Pantheon", 

52 Mythology of the British Islands 

Latin poet Lucan tells us, with human sacrifices, 
shared in by his female consorts, who, we may 
imagine, were not more merciful than himself, or 
than that Gaulish Taranis whose cult was "no 
gentler than that of the Scythian Diana", and who 
completes Lucan's triad as a fit companion to the 
4 'pitiless Teutates" and the "horrible Hesus". 1 Of 
these warlike goddesses there were five Fea, the 
" Hateful", Nemon, the "Venomous", Badb, the 
"Fury", Macha, a personification of "battle", and, 
over all of them, the Morrfgii, or "Great Queen". 
This supreme war-goddess of the Gaels, who re- 
sembles a fiercer Here, perhaps symbolized the 
moon, deemed by early races to have preceded the 
sun, and worshipped with magical and cruel rites. 
She is represented as going fully armed, and carry- 
ing two spears in her hand. As with Ares 2 and 
Poseidon 8 in the "Iliad", her battle-cry was as loud 
as that of ten thousand men. Wherever there was 
war, either among gods or men, she, the great queen, 
was present, either in her own shape or in her 
favourite disguise, that of a "hoodie" or carrion 
crow. An old poem shows her inciting a warrior: 

" Over his head is shrieking 

A lean hag, quickly hopping 
Over the points of the weapons and shields ; 
She is the gray-haired Morrigii". 4 

With her, Fea and Nemon, Badb and Macha also 

1 Pharsalia, Book 1, 1. 444, &c.: 

" Et quibus immitis placatur sanguine diro 

Teutates, horrensque feris altaribus Hesus ; 

Et Taranis Scythicae non mitior ara Dianae ". 
1 Iliad, Book V. 8 Of. eit. , Book XIV. 4 It commemorates the battle of Magh Rath. 

The Gods of the Gaels 53 

hovered over the fighters, inspiring them with the 
madness of battle. All of these were sometimes 
called by the name of " Badb" 1 . An account of the 
Battle of Clontarf, fought by Brian Boru, in 1014, 
against the Norsemen, gives a gruesome picture of 
what the Gaels believed to happen in the spiritual 
world when battle lowered and men's blood was 
aflame. " There arose a wild, impetuous, pre- 
cipitate, mad, inexorable, furious, dark, lacerating, 
merciless, combative, contentious badb, which was 
shrieking and fluttering over their heads. And 
there arose also the satyrs, and sprites, and the 
maniacs of the valleys, and the witches and goblins 
and owls, and destroying demons of the air and 
firmament, and the demoniac phantom host; and 
they were inciting and sustaining valour and battle 
with them." When the fight was over, they revelled 
among the bodies of the slain; the heads cut off as 
barbaric trophies were called " Madia's acorn crop". 
These grim creations of the savage mind had im- 
mense vitality. While Nuada, the supreme war- 
god, vanished early out of the Pantheon killed by 
the Fomors in the great battle fought between them 
and the gods Badb and the Morrfgu lived on as 
late as any of the Gaelic deities. Indeed, they may 
be said to still survive in the superstitious dislike 
and suspicion shown in all Celtic-speaking countries 
for their avatar, the hoodie-crow. 2 

After Nuada, the greatest of the gods was the 

1 The word is approximately pronounced Bive or Bibe. 

8 For a full account of these beings see a paper by Mr. W. M. Hennessey in 
VoL I of the Revue Celtique, entitled " The Ancient Irish Goddess of War". 

54 Mythology of the British Islands 

Dagda, whose name seems to have meant the "Good 
God". 1 The old Irish tract called "The Choice of 
Names " tells us that he was a god of the earth ; 
he had a cauldron called "The Undry", in which 
everyone found food in proportion to his merits, and 
from which none went away unsatisfied. He also 
had a living harp; as he played upon it, the seasons 
came in their order spring following winter, and 
summer succeeding spring, autumn coming after 
summer, and, in its turn, giving place to winter. He 
is represented as of venerable aspect and of simple 
mind and tastes, very fond of porridge, and a valiant 
consumer of it. In an ancient tale we have a de- 
scription of his dress. He wore a brown, low- 
necked tunic which only reached down to his hips, 
and, over this, a hooded cape which barely covered 
his shoulders. On his feet and legs were horse-hide 
boots, the hairy side outwards. He carried, or, 
rather, drew after him on a wheel, an eight-pronged 
war-club, so huge that eight men would have been 
needed to carry it; and the wheel, as he towed the 
whole weapon along, made a track like a territorial 
boundary. 2 Ancient and gray-headed as he was, 
and sturdy porridge-eater, it will be seen from this 
that he was a formidable fighter. He did great deeds 
in the battle between the gods and the Fomors, and, 
on one occasion, is even said to have captured single- 
handed a hundred-legged and four-headed monster 
called Mata, dragged him to the " Stone of Benn", 
near the Boyne, and killed him there. 

1 De Jubainvillc : Le Cycle Mythologique. Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 154. The 
Coir Anmann, however, translates it " Fire of God". 
* The Second Battle qf Moytura. Harleian MS. 5280. 

The Gods of the Gaels 55 

The Dagda's wife was called Boann. She was 
connected in legend with the River Boyne, to 
which she gave its name, and, indeed, its very exist- 
ence. 1 Formerly there was only a well 2 , shaded by 
nine magic hazel-trees. These trees bore crimson 
nuts, and it was the property of the nuts that who- 
ever ate of them immediately became possessed of 
the knowledge of everything that was in the world 
The story is, in fact, a Gaelic version of the Hebrew 
myth of " the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and 
Evil". One class of creatures alone had this 
privilege divine salmon who lived in the well, and 
swallowed the nuts as they dropped from the trees 
into the water, and thus knew all things, and appear 
in legend as the " Salmons of Knowledge". All 
others, even the highest gods, were forbidden to 
approach the place. Only Boann, with the pro- 
verbial woman's curiosity, dared to disobey this 
fixed law. She came towards the sacred well, but, 
as she did so, its waters rose up at her, and drove 
her away before them in a mighty, rushing flood. 
She escaped; but the waters never returned. They 
made the Boyne; and as for the all-knowing inhabi- 
tants of the well, they wandered disconsolately 
through the depths of the river, looking in vain for 
their lost nuts. One of these salmon was afterwards 
eaten by the famous Finn mac Coul, upon whom all 
its omniscience descended. 8 This way of accounting 
for the existence of a river is a favourite one in Irish 
legend. It is told also of the Shannon, which burst. 

1 The story is told in the Book of Leinster. f Now called " Trinity Well". 

1 See chap, xiv " Finn and the Fenians". 

56 Mythology of the British Islands 

like the Boyne, from an inviolable well, to pursue 
another presumptuous nymph called Sinann, a grand- 
daughter of the sea-god Ler. 1 

The Dagda had several children, the most im- 
portant of whom are Brigit, Angus, Mider, Ogma, 
and Bodb the Red. Of these, Brigit will be 
already familiar to English readers who know no- 
thing of Celtic myth. Originally she was a goddess 
of fire and the health, as well as of poetry, which 
the Gaels deemed an immaterial, supersensual form 
of flame. But the early Christianizers of Ireland 
adopted the pagan goddess into their roll of saint- 
ship, and, thus canonized, she obtained immense 
popularity as Saint Bridget, or Bride. 2 

Angus was called Mac Oc, which means the " Son 
of the Young ", or, perhaps, the " Young God ". 
This most charming of the creations of the Celtic 
mythology is represented as a Gaelic Eros, an 
eternally youthful exponent of love and beauty. 
Like his father, he had a harp, but it was of gold, 
not oak, as the Dagda's was, and so sweet was its 
music that no one could hear and not follow it. His 
kisses became birds which hovered invisibly over 
the young men and maidens of Erin, whispering 
thoughts of love into their ears. He is chiefly 
connected with the banks of the Boyne, where he 
had a "brugh", or fairy palace; and many stories 
are told of his exploits and adventures. 

Mider, also the hero of legends, would seem to 
have been a god of the underworld, a Gaelic 

1 Book of Leinster. A paraphrase of the story will be found in O'Curry's 
Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Vol. II, p. 143, 

2 See chap. xv~" The Decline and Fall of the Gods ". 

The Gods of the Gaels 57 

Pluto. As such, he was connected with the Isle 
of Falga a name for what was otherwise, and still 
is, called the Isle of Man where he had a strong- 
hold in which he kept three wonderful cows and 
a magic cauldron. He was also the owner of the 
4 'Three Cranes of Denial and Churlishness ", which 
might be described flippantly as personified " gentle 
hints ". They stood beside his door, and when any- 
one approached to ask for hospitality, the first one 
said: " Do not come! do not come!" and the second 
added: " Get away! get away!" while the third 
chimed in with: " Go past the house! go past the 
house!" 1 These three birds were, however, stolen 
from Mider by Aitherne, an avaricious poet, to 
whom they would seem to have been more appro- 
priate than to their owner, who does not otherwise 
appear as a churlish and illiberal deity. 2 On the 
contrary, he is represented as the victim of others, 
who plundered him freely. The god Angus took 
away his wife Etain, 8 while his cows, his cauldron, 
and his beautiful daughter Blathnat were carried off 
as spoil by the heroes or demi-gods who surrounded 
King Conchobar in the golden age of Ulster. 

Ogma, who appears to have been also called 
Cermait, that is, the " honey- mouthed ", was the 
god of literature and eloquence. He married 
Etan, the daughter of Diancecht, the god of medi- 
cine, and had several children, who play parts more 
or less prominent in the mythology of the Gaelic 
Celts, One of them was called Tuirenn, whose 

1 Rhys : HMert Lectures, p. 331. * Rhys : Hibtert Lectures, p. 331, 

1 Sec chap, xi " The Gods in Exile ". 

58 Mythology of the British Islands 

three sons murdered the father of the sun -god, and 
were compelled, as expiation, to pay the greatest fine 
ever heard of nothing less than the chief treasures 
of the world. 1 Another son, Cairpr^, became the 
professional bard of the Tuatha De Danann, while 
three others reigned for a short time over the divine 
race. As patron of literature, Ogma was naturally 
credited with having been the inventor of the famous 
Ogam alphabet. This was an indigenous script of 
Ireland, which spread afterwards to Great Britain, 
inscriptions in ogmic characters having been found 
in Scotland, the Isle of Man, South Wales, Devon- 
shire, and at Silchester in Hampshire, the Roman 
city of Calleva Attrebatum. It was originally in- 
tended for inscriptions upon upright pillar-stones or 
upon wands, the equivalents for letters being notches 
cut across, or strokes made upon one of the faces of 
the angle, the alphabet running as follows : 





B L F 

ii imr~ 

5 N H 

D T C 
///// Y 

1 ' L _j 





R P 

1 Sec chap, vm "The Gaelic Argonauts". 

The Gods of the Gaels 59 

When afterwards written in manuscript, the strokes 
were placed over, under, or through a horizontal 
line, in the manner above; and the vowels were 
represented by short lines instead of notches, as: 


A good example of an ogmic inscription is given 
in Professor Rhys's Hibbert Lectures. It comes from 
a pillar on a small promontory near Dunmore Head, 
in the west of Kerry, and, read horizontally, reads: 

mi/ inn / 




The origin of this alphabet is obscure. Some 
authorities consider it of great antiquity, while others 
believe it entirely post-Christian. It seems, at any 
rate, to have been based upon, and consequently to 
presuppose a knowledge of, the Roman alphabet. 

Ogma, besides being the patron of literature, was 
the champion, or professional strong man of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann. His epithet is Grianainech, 

1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 524. 

6o Mythology of the British Islands 

that is, the " Sunny-faced ", from his radiant and 
shining countenance. 

The last of the Dagda's more important children 
is Bodb 1 the Red, who plays a greater part in later 
than in earlier legend. He succeeded his father as 
king of the gods. He is chiefly connected with 
the south of Ireland, especially with the Gal tee 
Mountains, and with Lough Dearg, where he had 
a famous sidh, or underground palace. 

The Poseidon of the Tuatha D6 Danann Pantheon 
was called Ler, but we hear little of him in com- 
parison with his famous son, Mananndn, the greatest 
and most popular of his many children. Manannan 
mac Lir 2 was the special patron of sailors, who 
invoked him as "God of Headlands'*, and of mer- 
chants, who claimed him as the first of their guild. 
His favourite haunts were the Isle of Man, to which 
he gave his name, and the Isle of Arran, in the 
Firth of Clyde, where he had a palace called " Emhain 
of the Apple-Trees ". He had many famous weapons 
two spears called " Yellow Shaft " and " Red 
Javelin 11 , a sword called " The Retaliatory which 
never failed to slay, as well as two others known as 
the " Great Fury " and the " Little Fury ". He had 
a boat called ' ' Wave-sweeper ", which propelled and 
guided itself wherever its owner wished, and a horse 
called " Splendid Mane ", which was swifter than 
the spring wind, and travelled equally fast on land 
or over the waves of the sea. No weapon could 
hurt him through his magic mail and breast-plate, 
and on his helmet there shone two magic jewels 

1 Pronounced Bovc. 2 Lr genitive Lir. 

The Gods of the Gaels 61 

bright as the sun. He endowed the gods with 
the mantle which made them invisible at will, and 
he fed them from his pigs, which, like the boar 
Saehrimnir, in the Norse Valhalla, renewed them- 
selves as soon as they had been eaten. Of these, 
no doubt, he made his " Feast of Age", the banquet 
at which those who ate never grew old. Thus the 
people of the goddess Danu preserved their im- 
mortal youth, while the ale of Goibniu the Smith- 
God bestowed invulnerability upon them. It is 
fitting that Mananndn himself should have been 
blessed beyond all the other gods with inexhaustible 
life; up to the latest days of Irish heroic literature 
his luminous figure shines prominent, nor is it even 
yet wholly forgotten. 

Goibniu, the Gaelic Hephaestus, who made the 
people of the goddess Danu invulnerable with his 
magic drink, was also the forger of their weapons. 
It was he who, helped by Luchtain6, the divine 
carpenter, and Credn6, the divine bronze - worker, 
made the armoury with which the Tuatha D6 Dan- 
ann conquered the Fomors. Equally useful to 
them was Diancecht, the god of medicine. 1 It 
was he who once saved Ireland, and was indirectly 
the cause of the name of the River Barrow. The 
Morrfgii, the heaven -god's fierce wife, had borne 
a son of such terrible aspect that the physician of 
the gods, foreseeing danger, counselled that he 
should be destroyed in his infancy. This was done; 
and Diancecht opened the infant's heart, and found 

1 Pronounced Dianket. His name is explained, both in the Choice of 
and in Cormaq's Glossary, as meaning " God of Health ". 

62 Mythology of the British Islands 

within it three serpents, capable, when they grew to 
full size, of depopulating Ireland. He lost no time 
in destroying these serpents also, and burning them 
into ashes, to avoid the evil which even their dead 
bodies might do. More than this, he flung the 
ashes into the nearest river, for he feared that there 
might be danger even in them; and, indeed, so 
venomous were they that the river boiled up and 
slew every living creature in it, and therefore has 
been called " Barrow" (boiling) ever since. 1 

Diancecht had several children, of whom two fol- 
lowed their father's profession. These were Miach 
and his sister Airmid. There were also another 
daughter, Etan, who married Cermait (or Ogma), 
and three other sons called Cian, Ceth, and Cu. 
Cian married Ethniu, the daughter of Balor the 
Fomor, and they had a son who was the crowning 
glory of the Gaelic Pantheon its Apollo, the Sun- 
God, Lugh 2 , called Lamhfada*, which means the 
"Long-handed", or the "Far-shooter". It was not, 
however, with the bow, like the Apollo of the 
Greeks, but with the rod-sling that Lugh per- 
formed his feats; his worshippers sometimes saw 
the terrible weapon in the sky as a rainbow, and 
the Milky Way was called " Lugh s Chain ". He 
also had a magic spear, which, unlike the rod-sling, 
he had no need to wield, himself; for it was alive, 
and thirsted so for blood that only by steeping its 
head in a sleeping-draught of pounded poppy leaves 
could it be kept at rest. When battle was near, it 

1 Standish O'Grady : The Story of Ireland, p. 17. 

3 Pronounced Luga or LQO. * pronounced L$vdda. 

From the Drawing by II. R. Millar 

The Gods of the Gaels , 63 

was drawn out ; then it roared, and struggled against 
its thongs; fire flashed from it; and, once slipped 
from the leash, it tore through and through the 
ranks of the enemy, never tired of slaying. Another 
of his possessions was a magic hound which an 
ancient poem, 1 attributed to the Fenian hero, Caoilte, 

" That hound of mightiest deeds, 
Which was irresistible in hardness of combat, 
Was better than wealth ever known, 
A ball of fire every night 

" Other virtues had that beautiful hound 
(Better this property than any other property), 
Mead or wine would grow of it, 
Should it bathe in spring water/ 1 

This marvellous hound, as well as the marvellous 
spear, and the indestructible pigs of Mananndn were 
obtained for Lugh by the sons of Tuirenn as part of 
the blood-fine he exacted from them for the murder 
of his father Cian. 2 A hardly less curious story is 
that which tells how Lugh got his name of the 
loldanach, or the "Master of All Arts". 3 

These are, of course, only the greater deities of 
the Gaelic Pantheon, their divinities which answered 
to such Hellenic figures as Demeter, Zeus, Here, 
Cronos, Athena, Eros, Hades, Hermes, Hephaestus, 
Aesculapius, and Apollo. All of them had many 
descendants, some of whom play prominent parts 

i Translated by O'Curry in Atlantis, VoL III, from the Book of Lismore. 
3 Chap, viii- 1 ' The Gaelic Argonauts". 
* Chap, vn " The Rise of the Sun-God ". 

64 Mythology of the British Islands 

in the heroic cycles of the " Red Branch of Ulster ' 
and of the " Fenians ". In addition to these, there 
must have been a multitude of lesser gods who 
stood in much the same relation to the great gods 
as the rank and file of tribesmen did to their chiefs. 
Most of these were probably local deities of the 
various clans the gods their heroes swore by. But 
it is also possible that some may have been divini- 
ties of the aboriginal race. Professor Rhys thinks 
that he can still trace a few of such Iberian gods by 
name, as Net, Ri or Roi, Corb, and Beth. 1 But 
they play no recognizable part in the stories of the 
Gaelic gods. 

1 Rhys: Celtic Britain, chap. vu. 



The people of the goddess Danu were not the 
first divine inhabitants of Ireland. Others had been 
before them, dwellers in "the dark backward and 
abysm of time ". In this the Celtic mythology re- 
sembles those of other nations, in almost all of which 
we find an old, dim realm of gods standing behind 
the reigning Pantheon. Such were Cronos and the 
Titans, dispossessed by the Zeus who seemed, even 
to Hesiod, something of a parvenu deity. Gaelic 
tradition recognizes two divine dynasties anterior to 
the Tuatha D Danann. The first of these was 
called "The Race of Partholon". Its head and 
leader came as all gods and men came, according 
to Celtic ideas from the Other World, and landed 
in Ireland with a retinue of twenty- four males and 
twenty-four females upon the first of May, the day 
called " Beltaine ", sacred to Bite, the god of death. 
At this remote time, Ireland consisted of only one 
treeless, grassless plain, watered by three lakes and 
nine rivers. But, as the race of Partholon increased, 
the land stretched, or widened, under them some 
said miraculously, and others, by the labours of 
Partholon's people. At any rate, during the three 
hundred years they dwelt there, it grew from one 

(B219) 66 K 

66 Mythology of the British Islands 

plain to four, and acquired seven new lakes; which 
was fortunate, for the race of Partholon increased 
from forty-eight members to five thousand, in spite 
of battles with the Fomors. 

These would seem to have been inevitable. 
Whatever gods ruled, they found themselves in 
eternal opposition to the not-gods the powers of 
darkness, winter, evil, and death. The race of 
Partholon warred against them with success. At 
the Plain of Ith, Partholon defeated their leader, 
a gigantic demon called Cichol the Footless, and 
dispersed his deformed and monstrous host. After 
this there was quiet for three hundred years. Then 
upon the same fatal first of May there began a 
mysterious epidemic, which lasted a week, and de- 
stroyed them all In premonition of their end, they 
foregathered upon the original, first-created plain 
then called Sen Mag, or the "Old Plain ", so that 
those who survived might the more easily bury 
those that died. Their funeral-place is still marked 
by a mound near Dublin, called " Tallaght " in the 
maps, but formerly known as Tamlecht Muintre 
Partholain, the " Plague - grave of Partholon's 
People ". This would seem to have been a de- 
velopment of the veiy oldest form of the legend 
which knew nothing of a plague, but merely repre- 
sented the people of Partholon as having returned, 
after their sojourn in Ireland, to the other world, 
whence they came and is probably due to the 
gradual euhemerization of the ancient gods into 
ancient men. 

Following the race of Partholon, came the race 

The Gods Arrive 67 

of Nemed, which carried on the work and traditions 
of its forerunner. During its time, Ireland again 
enlarged herself, to the extent of twelve new plains 
and four more lakes. Like the people of Par- 
tholon, the race of Nemed struggled with the 
Fomors, and defeated them in four consecutive 
battles. Then Nemed died, with two thousand of 
his people, from an epidemic, and the remnant, left 
without their leader, were terribly oppressed by the 
Fomors. Two Fomorian kings More, son of 
Dela, and Conann, son of Febar had built a tower 
of glass upon Tory Island, always their chief strong- 
hold, and where stories of them still linger, and 
from this vantage-point they dictated a tax which 
recalls that paid, in Greek story, to the Cretan 
Minotaur. Two-thirds of the children born to the 
race of Nemed during the year were to be delivered 
up on each day of Samhain. Goaded by this to 
a last desperate effort, the survivors of Nemed's 
people attacked the tower, and took it, Conann 
perishing in the struggle. But their triumph was 
short. More, the other king, collected his forces, 
and inflicted such a slaughter upon the people of 
Nemed that, out of the sixteen thousand who had 
assembled for the storming of the tower, only thirty 
survived. And these returned whence they came, 
or died the two acts being, mythologically speak- 
ing, the same. 1 

One cannot help seeing a good deal of similarity 
between the stories of these two mythical invasions 
of Ireland. Especially noticeable is the account of 

1 Dejubainville; Cycle Mythologique, chap. v. 

68 Mythology of the British Islands 

the epidemic which destroyed all Partholon's people 
and nearly all of Nemed's. Hence it has been held 
that the two legends are duplicates, and that there 
was at first only one, which has been adapted some- 
what differently by two races, the Iberians and the 
Gaels. Professor Rhys considers 1 the account of 
Nemed to have been the original Celtic one, and 
the Partholon story, the version of it which the 
native races made to please themselves. The name 
" Partholon ", with its initial /, is entirely foreign to 
the genius of Gaelic speech. Moreover, Partholon 
himself is given, by the early chroniclers, ancestors 
whose decidedly non-Aryan names reappear after- 
wards as the names of Fir Bolg chiefs. Nemed was 
later than Partholon in Ireland, as the Gaels, or " Mi- 
lesians ", were later than the Iberians, or "Fir Bolgs". 
These " Fir Bolgs " are found in myth as the 
next colonizers of Ireland. Varying traditions say 
that they came from Greece, or from " Spain " 
which was a post - Christian euphemism for the 
Celtic Hades. 2 They consisted of three tribes, 
called the "Fir Domnann " or "Men of Domnu", 
the "Fir Gaillion " or "Men of Gaillion ", and the 
" Fir Bolg " or " Men of Bolg "; but, in spite of the 
fact that the first-named tribe was the most im- 
portant, they are usually called collectively after 
the last. Curious stories are told of their life in 
Greece, and how they came to Ireland; but these 
are somewhat factitious, and obviously do not be- 
long to the earliest tradition. 

1 Rhys: " The Mythographical Treatment of Celtic Ethnology", Scottish Review, 
Oct. 1890. 
1 De Jubainville: Cycle Mythologique, chap. v. Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, pp. 90, 91. 

The Gods Arrive 69 

In the time of their domination they had, we are 
told, partitioned Ireland among them: the Fir Bolg 
held Ulster; the Fir Domnann, divided into three 
kingdoms, occupied North Munster, South Munster, 
and Connaught; while the Fir Gaillion owned Lein- 
ster. These five provinces met at a hill then called 
"Balor's Hill", but afterwards the "Hill of Uisnech". 
It is near Rathconrath, in the county of West 
Meath, and was believed, in early times, to mark 
the exact centre of Ireland. They held the country 
from the departure of the people of Nemed to the 
coming of the people of the goddess Danu, and dur- 
ing this period they had nine supreme kings. At 
the time of the arrival of the gods, their king's name 
was Eochaid 1 son of Ere, surnamed "The Proud". 

We have practically no other details regarding 
their life in Ireland. It is obvious, however, that 
they were not really gods, but the pre- Aryan race 
which the Gaels, when they landed in Ireland, found 
already in occupation. There are many instances 
of peoples at a certain stage of culture regarding 
tribes in a somewhat lower one as semi-divine, or, 
rather, half -diabolical. 2 The suspicion and fear 
with which the early Celts must have regarded the 
savage aborigines made them seem "larger than 
human ". They feared them for the weird magical 
rites which they practised in their inaccessible forts 
among the hills, amid storms and mountain mists. 
The Gaels, who held themselves to be the children 
of light, deemed these "dark Iberians" children of 

1 Pronounced Ecca or Eohee. 

Gomme: Ethnology in Folklore, chap, ill " The Mythic Influence of a Con. 
quered Race ". 

70 Mythology of the British Islands 

the dark. Their tribal names seem to have been, 
in several instances, founded upon this idea. There 
were the Corca-Oidce (" People of Darkness") and 
the Corca-Duibhne (" People of the Night "). The 
territory of the western tribe of the Hi Dorchaide 
(" Sons of Dark ") was called the " Night Country " x 
The Celts, who held their own gods to have preceded 
them into Ireland, would not believe that even the 
Tuatha D6 Danann could have wrested the land 
from these magic-skilled Iberians without battle. 

They seem also to have been considered as in 
some way connected with the Fomors. Just as 
the largest Iberian tribe was called the "Men of 
Domnu", so the Fomors were called the "Gods of 
Domnu ", and Indech, one of their kings, is a "son 
of Domnu ". Thus eternal battle between the gods, 
children of Danu, and the giants, children of Domnu, 
would reflect, in the supernatural world, the per- 
petual warfare between invading Celt and resisting 
Iberian. It is shadowed, too, in the later heroic 
cycle. The champions of Ulster, Aryans and Gaels 
par excellence, have no such bitter enemies as the 
Fir Domnann of Munster and the Fir Gaillion of 
Leinster. A few scholars would even see in the 
later death-struggle between the High King of 
Ireland and his rebellious Fenians the last historic 
or mythological adumbration of racial war. 2 

The enemies alike of Fir Bolg and Fomor, the 

1 Elton : Origins of English History \ note to p. 136. 

1 It has been contended that the Fenians were originally the gods or heroes of an 
aboriginal people in Ireland, the myths about them representing the pre-Celtic and 
pre-Aryan ideal, as the sagas of the Red Branch of Ulster embodied that of the 
Celtic Aryans. The question, however, is as yet far from being satisfactorily 

The Gods Arrive 71 

Tuatha D Danann, gods of the Gaels, were the 
next to arrive. What is probably the earliest 
account tells us that they came from the sky. Later 
versions, however, give them a habitation upon 
earth some say in the north, others in the " southern 
isles of the world ". They had dwelt in four mythi- 
cal cities called Findias, Gorias, Murias, and Falias, 
where they had learned poetry and magic to the 
primitive mind two not very dissimilar things and 
whence they had brought to Ireland their four chief 
treasures. From Findias came Nuada's sword, 
from whose stroke no one ever escaped or re- 
covered; from Gorias, Lugh's terrible lance; from 
Murias, the Dagda's cauldron; and from Falias, the 
Stone of Fdl, better known as the " Stone of Des- 
tiny ", which afterwards fell into the hands of the 
early kings of Ireland. According to legend, it had 
the magic property of uttering a human cry when 
touched by the rightful King of Erin. Some have 
recognized in this marvellous stone the same rude 
block which Edward I brought from Scone in the 
year 1300, and placed in Westminster Abbey, where 
it now forms part of the Coronation Chair. It is a 
curious fact that, while Scottish legend asserts this 
stone to have come to Scotland from Ireland, Irish 
legend should also declare that it was taken from 
Ireland to Scotland. This would sound like con- 
clusive evidence, but it is none the less held by 
leading modern archaeologists including Dr. W. F. 
Skene, who has published a monograph on the sub- 
ject 1 that the Stone of Scone and the Stone of 

1 The Coronation Stone t by William Forbes Skene. 

72 Mythology of the British Islands 

Tara were never the same. Dr. Petrie identifies 
the real Lia Fdil with a stone which has always 
remained in Ireland, and which was removed from 
its original position on Tara Hill, in 1798, to mark 
the tomb of the rebels buried close by under a 
mound now known as " the Croppies 1 grave ".* 

Whether the Tuatha D6 Danann came from 
earth or heaven, they landed in a dense cloud upon 
the coast of Ireland on the mystic first of May 
without having been opposed, or even noticed by 
the people whom it will be convenient to follow the 
manuscript authorities in calling the " Fir Bolgs ".* 
That those might still be ignorant of their coming, 
the Morrigii, helped by Badb and Macha, made use 
of the magic they had learned in Findias, Gorias, 
Murias, and Falias. They spread " druidically- 
formed showers and fog-sustaining shower-clouds" 
over the country, and caused the air to pour down 
fire and blood upon the Fir Bolgs, so that they were 
obliged to shelter themselves for three days and 
three nights. But the Fir Bolgs had druids of their 
own, and, in the end, they put a stop to these en- 
chantments by counter-spells, and the air grew clear 

The Tuatha D6 Danann, advancing westward, 
had reached a place called the " Plain of the Sea", 
in Leinster, when the two armies met. Each sent 
out a warrior to parley. The two adversaries ap- 

1 See History and Antiquities of Tara Hill. 

9 Our authorities for the details of this war between the Tuatha De* Danann and 
the Fir Bolgs are the opening verses of the Harleian MS. 5280, as translated by 
Stokes and De Jubainville, and Eugene O'Curry's translations, in his MS. Material* 
of Ancient Irish History and his Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, from 
a manuscript preserved at Trinity College, Dublin. 

The Gods Arrive /c 

preached each other cautiously, their eyes peeping 
over the tops of their shields. Then, coming 
gradually nearer, they spoke to one another, and the 
desire to examine each other's weapons made them 
almost friends. 

The envoy of the Fir Bolgs looked with wondei 
at the " beautifully-shaped, thin, slender, long, sharp- 
pointed spears " of the warrior of the Tuatha D^ 
Danann, while the ambassador of the tribe of the 
goddess Danu was not less impressed by the lancet 
of the Fir Bolgs, which were " heavy, thick, point- 
less, but sharply-rounded ". They agreed to ex- 
change weapons, so that each side might, by ar 
examination of them, be able to come to some 
opinion as to its opponent's strength. Before part- 
ing, the envoy of the Tuatha D6 Danann offeree 
the Fir Bolgs, through their representative, peace 
with a division of the country into two equal halves. 

The Fir Bolg envoy advised his people to accepi 
this offer. But their king, Eochaid, son of Ere 
would not. "If we once give these people half/ 
he said, "they will soon have the whole/' 

The people of the goddess Danu were, on the 
other hand, very much impressed by the sight oi 
the Fir Bolgs' weapons. They decided to secure % 
more advantageous position, and, retreating farther 
west into Connaught, to a plain then called Nia, but 
now Moytura, near the present village of Cong 
they drew up their line at its extreme end, in from 
of the pass of Balgatan 1 , which offered a retreat in 
case of defeat. 

1 Now called Benlevi. 

74 Mythology of the British Islands 

The Fir Bolgs followed them, and encamped on 
the nearer side of the plain. Then Nuada, King of 
the Tuatha D Danann, sent an ambassador offer- 
ing the same terms as before. Again the Fir Bolgs 
declined them. 

"Then when", asked the envoy, "do you intend 
to give battle ?" 

"We must have a truce, " they said, "for we 
want time to repair our armour, burnish our helmets, 
and sharpen our swords. Besides, we must have 
spears like yours made for us, and you must have 
spears like ours made for you." 

The result of this chivalrous, but, to modern 
ideas, amazing, parley was that a truce of one hun- 
dred and five days was agreed upon. 

It was on Midsummer Day that the opposing 
armies at last met. The people of the goddess 
Danu appeared in " a flaming line ", wielding their 
" red-bordered, speckled, and firm shields ". Oppo- 
site to them were ranged the Fir Bolgs, "sparkling, 
brilliant, and flaming, with their swords, spears, 
blades, and trowel-spears ". The proceedings began 
with a kind of deadly hurley-match, in which thrice 
nine of the Tuatha D6 Danann played the same 
number of the Fir Bolgs, and were defeated and 
killed. Then followed another parley, to decide 
how the battle should be carried on, whether there 
should be fighting every day or only on every 
second day. Moreover, Nuada obtained from 
Eochaid an assurance that the battles should always 
be fought with equal numbers, although this was, 
we are told, "very disagreeable to the Fir 

The Gods Arrive 75 

king, because he had largely the advantage in the 
numbers of his army ". Then warfare recommenced 
with a series of single combats, like those of the 
Greeks and Trojans in the " Iliad ". At the end of 
each day the conquerors on both sides went back to 
their camps, and were refreshed by being bathed in 
healing baths of medicinal herbs. 

So the fight went on for four days, with terrible 
slaughter upon each side. A Fir Bolg champion 
called Sreng fought in single combat with Nuada, 
the King of the Gods, and shore off his hand and 
half his shield with one terrific blow. Eochaid, 
the King of the Fir Bolgs, was even less fortunate 
than Nuada; for he lost his life. Suffering terribly 
from thirst, he went, with a hundred of his men, 
to look for water, and was followed, and pursued 
as far as the strand of Ballysadare, in Sligo. 
Here he turned to bay, but was killed, his grave 
being still marked by a tumulus. The Fir Bolgs, 
reduced at last to three hundred men, demanded 
single combat until all upon one side were slain. 
But, sooner than consent to this, the Tuatha D6 
Danann offered them a fifth part of Ireland, which- 
ever province they might choose. They agreed, 
and chose Connaught, ever afterwards their especial 
home, and where, until the middle of the seven- 
teenth century, men were still found tracing their 
descent from Sreng. 

The whole story has a singularly historical, curi- 
ously unmythological air about it, which contrasts 
strangely with the account of the other battle of the 
same name which the Tuatha D6 Danann waged 

76 Mythology of the British Islands 

afterwards with the Fomors. The neighbourhood 
of Cong still preserves both relics and traditions of 
the fight Upon the plain of " Southern Moytura" 
(as it is called, to distinguish it from the " Northern 
Moytura " of the second battle) are many circles 
and tumuli. These circles are especially numerous 
near the village itself; and it is said that there were 
formerly others, which have been used for making 
walls and dykes. Large cairns of stones, too, are 
scattered over what was certainly once the scene of 
a great battle. 1 These various prehistoric monu- 
ments each have their still - told story ; and Sir 
William Wilde, as he relates in his Lough Corrib? 
was so impressed by the unexpected agreement 
between the details of the legendary battle, as he 
read them in the ancient manuscript, and the tra- 
ditions still attaching to the mounds, circles, and 
cairns, that he tells us he could not help coming to 
the conclusion that the account was absolutely his- 
torical Certainly the coincidences are curious. 
His opinion was that the "Fir Bolgs" were a colony 
of Belgae, and that the " Tuatha D6 Danann " were 
Danes. But the people of the goddess Danu are 
too obviously mythical to make it worth while to 
seek any standing-ground for them in the world of 
reality. In their superhuman attributes, they are 
quite different from the Fir Bolgs. In the epical 
cycle it is made as clear that the Tuatha De Dan- 
ann are divine beings as it is that the Fir Bolg, the 
Fir Domnann, and the Fir Gaillion stand on exactly 

1 See Dr. James Fergusson: Rude Stone Monuments, pp. 177-180. 

8 Lough Corrib, Its Shores and 1 stands > by Sir William R, Wilde, chap. VI 1 1 

The Gods Arrive 77 

the same footing as the men of Ulster. Later 
history records by what Milesian kings and on what 
terms of rack-rent the three tribes were allowed 
settlements in other parts of Ireland than their 
native Connaught. They appear in ancient, medi- 
aeval, and almost modern chronicles as the old race 
of the land. The truth seems to be that the whole 
story of the war between the gods and the Fir 
Bolgs is an invention of comparatively late times. 
In the earliest documents there is only one battle of 
Moytura, fought between the people of the goddess 
Danu and the Fomors. The idea of doubling it 
seems to date from after the eleventh century; 1 and 
its inventor may very well have used the legends 
concerning this battle - field, where two unknown 
armies had fought in days gone by, in compiling 
his story. It never belonged to the same genuine 
mythological stratum as the legend of the original 
battle fought by the Tuatha D6 Danann, the gods 
of the Gaels, against the Fomors, the gods of the 

1 De Jubainville : Cycle Mythologique Mandais, p. 136. 



It was as a result of the loss of his hand in this 
battle with the Fir Bolgs that Nuada got his name 
of Argetldm, that is, the " Silver Handed ". For 
Diancecht, the physician of the Tuatha D6 Danann, 
made him an artificial hand of silver, so skilfully 
that it moved in all its joints, and was as strong and 
supple as a real one. But, good as it was of its 
sort, it was a blemish; and, according to Celtic cus- 
tom, no maimed person could sit upon the throne. 
Nuada was deposed; and the Tuatha D6 Danann 
went into council to appoint a new king. 

They agreed that it would be a politic thing for 
them to conciliate the Fomors, the giants of the 
sea, and make an alliance with them. So they sent 
a message to Bress, the son of the Fomorian king, 
Elathan, asking him to come and rule over them. 
Bress accepted this offer; and they made a marriage 
between him and Brigit, the daughter of the Dagda. 
At the same time, Cian 2 , the son of Diancecht, the 
physician of the Tuatha D6 Danann, married 

1 The principal sources of information for this chapter are the Harleian MS. 5280 
entitled The Second Battle of Moytura, of which translations have been made 
by Dr. Whitley Stokes in the Revue Celtique and M. de Jubainville in his L Apopte 
Celtique en Irlande^ and Eugene O'Curr/s translation in Vol. IV. of Atlantis of 
the Pate of the Children of Tuirenn. * Pronounced Kian. 


The Rise of the Sun-God 79 

Ethniu, the daughter of the Fomor, Balor. Then 
Bress was made king, and endowed with lands and 
a palace ; and he, on his part, gave hostages that he 
would abdicate if his rule ever became unpleasing to 
those who had elected him, 

But, in spite of all his fair promises, Bress, who 
belonged in heart to his own fierce people, began to 
oppress his subjects with excessive taxes. He put 
a tax upon every hearth, upon every kneading- 
trough, and upon every quern, as well as a poll-tax 
of an ounce of gold upon every member of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann. By a crafty trick, too, he 
obtained the milk of all their cattle. He asked at 
first only for the produce of any cows which hap- 
pened to be brown and hairless, and the people of 
the goddess Danu granted him this cheerfully. 
But Bress passed all the cattle in Ireland between 
two fires, so that their hair was singed off, and thus 
obtained the monopoly of the main source of food. 
To earn a livelihood, all the gods, even the greatest, 
were now forced to labour for him, Ogma, their 
champion, was sent out to collect firewood, while 
the Dagda was put to work building forts and 

One day, when the Dagda was at his task, his 
son, Angus, came to him, " You have nearly 
finished that castle/' he said. " What reward do 
you intend to ask from Bress when it is done?" 
The Dagda replied that he had not yet thought of 
it " Let me give you some advice," said Angus. 
11 Ask Bress to have all the cattle in Ireland gathered 
together upon a plain, so that you can pick out one 

8o Mythology of the British Islands 

for yourself. He will consent to that. Then choose 
the black-maned heifer called ' Ocean '." 

The Dagda finished building the fort, and then 
went to Bress for his reward. " What will you 
have?" asked Bress. " I want all the cattle in Ire- 
land gathered together upon a plain, so that I may 
choose one of them for myself. " Bress did this; 
and the Dagda took the black-maned heifer Angus 
had told him of. The king, who had expected to 
be asked very much more, laughed at what he 
thought was the Dagda's simplicity. But Angus 
had been wise; as will be seen hereafter. 

Meanwhile Bress was infuriating the people of 
the goddess Danu by adding avarice to tyranny. 
It was for kings to be liberal to all-comers, but at 
the court of Bress no one ever greased his knife 
with fat, or made his breath smell of ale. Nor were 
there ever any poets or musicians or jugglers or 
jesters there to give pleasure to the people; for 
Bress would distribute no largess. Next, he cut 
down the very subsistence of the gods. So scanty 
was his allowance of food that they began to grow 
weak with famine. Ogma, through feebleness, could 
only carry one-third of the wood needed for fuel; so 
that they suffered from cold as well as from hunger. 

It was at this crisis that two physicians, Miach, 
the son, and Airmid, the daughter, of Diancecht, 
the god of medicine, came to the castle where the 
dispossessed King Nuada lived. Nuada's porter, 
blemished, like himself (for he had lost an eye), was 
sitting at the gate, and on his lap was a cat curled 
up asleep. The porter asked the strangers who 

The Rise of the Sun-God 81 

they were. " We are good doctors/ 1 they said. "If 
that is so," he replied, " perhaps you can give me a 
new eye." "Certainly," they said, "we could take 
one of the eyes of that cat, and put it in the place 
where your lost eye used to be." " I should be very 
pleased if you would do that," answered the porter, 
So Miach and Airmid removed one of the cat's 
eyes, and put it in the hollow where the man's eye 
had been. 

The story goes on to say that this was not wholly 
a benefit to him; for the eye retained its cat's 
nature, and, when the man wished to sleep at nights, 
the cat's eye was always looking out for mice, while 
it could hardly be kept awake during the day. 
Nevertheless, he was pleased at the time, and went 
and told Nuada, who commanded that the doctors 
who had performed this marvellous cure should be 
brought to him. 

As they came in, they heard the king groaning, 
for Nuada's wrist had festered where the silver hand 
joined the arm of flesh. Miach asked where Nuada's 
own hand was, and they told him that it had been 
buried long ago. But he dug it up, and placed it 
to Nuada's stump; he uttered an incantation over 
it, saying: "Sinew to sinew, and nerve to nerve be 
joined!" and in three days and nights the hand had 
renewed itself and fixed itself to the arm, so that 
Nuada was whole again. 

When Diancecht, Miach's father, heard of this 
he was very angry to think that his son should have 
excelled him in the art of medicine. He sent for him, 
and struck him upon the head with a sword, cutting 


8a Mythology of the British Islands 

the skin, but not wounding the flesh. Miach easily 
healed this. So Diancecht hit him again, this time 
to the bone. Again Miach cured himself. The 
third time his father smote him, the sword went 
right through the skull to the membrane of the 
brain, but even this wound Miach was able to leech. 
At the fourth stroke, however, Diancecht cut the 
brain in two, and Miach could do nothing for that. 
He died, and Diancecht buried him. And upon his 
grave there grew up three hundred and sixty-five 
stalks of grass, each one a cure for any illness of 
each of the three hundred and sixty-five nerves in 
a man's body. Airmid, Miach's sister, plucked all 
these very carefully, and arranged them on her 
mantle according to their properties. But her angry 
and jealous father overturned the cloak, and hope- 
lessly confused them. If it had not been for that 
act, says the early writer, men would know how to 
cure every illness, and would so be immortal. 

The healing of Nuada's blemish happened just 
at the time when all the people of the goddess 
Danu had at last agreed that the exactions and 
tyranny of Bress could no longer be borne. It was 
the insult he put upon Cairpre, son of Ogma the 
god of literature, that caused things to come to 
this head. Poets were always held by the Celts in 
great honour; and when Cairpr6, the bard of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann, went to visit Bress, he ex- 
pected to be treated with much consideration, and 
fed at the king's own table. But, instead of doing 
so, Bress lodged him in a small, dark room where 
there was no fire, no bed, and no furniture except 

The Rise of the Sun-God 83 

a mean table on which small cakes of dry bread 
were put on a little dish for his food. The next 
morning, Cairpr rose early and left the palace 
without having spoken to Bress. It was the custom 
of poets when they left a king's court to utter a 
panegyric on their host, but Cairprd treated Bress 
instead to a magical satire. It was the first satire 
ever made in Ireland, and seems to us to bear upon 
it all the marks of an early effort. Roughly rendered, 
it said: 

" No meat on the plates, 
No milk of the cows ; 

No shelter for the belated ; 
No money for the minstrels: 

May Bress's cheer be what he gives to others!" 

This satire of Cairpr^'s was, we are assured, so 
virulent that it caused great red blotches to break 
out all over Bress's face. This in itself constituted 
a blemish such as should not be upon a king, and 
the Tuatha D6 Danann called upon Bress to abdi- 
cate and let Nuada take the throne again. 

Bress was obliged to do so. He went back to 
the country of. the Fomors, underneath the sea, 
and complained to his father Elathan, its king, 
asking him to gather an army to reconquer his 
throne. The Fomors assembled in council Ela- 
than, Tethra, Balor, Indech, and all the other 
warriors and chiefs and they decided to come with 
a great host, and take Ireland away, and put it 
under the sea where the people of the goddess 
Danu would never be able to find it again. 

At the same time, another assembly was also 

84 Mythology of the British Islands 

being held at Tara, the capital of the Tuatha 
Danann. Nuada was celebrating his return to the 
throne by a feast to his people. While it was at its 
height, a stranger clothed like a king came to the 
palace gate. The porter asked him his name and 

" I am called Lugh," he said. " I am the grand- 
son of Diancecht by Cian, my father, and the grand- 
son of Balor by Ethniu, my mother." 

" But what is your profession ?" asked the porter; 
"for no one is admitted here unless he is a master 
of some craft. " 

" I am a carpenter," said Lugh. 

" We have no need of a carpenter. We already 
have a very good one; his name is Luchtain6. 

" I am an excellent smith," said Lugh. 

"We do not want a smith. We have a very 
good one; his name is Goibniu." 

" I am a professional warrior," said Lugh. 

" We have no need of one. Ogma is our cham- 

" I am a harpist," said Lugh. 

14 We have an excellent harpist already/' 

" I am a warrior renowned for skilfulness rather 
than for mere strength." 

"We already have a man like that." 

" I am a poet and tale-teller," said Lugh. 

"We have no need of such. We have a most 
accomplished poet and tale-teller." 

" I am a sorcerer," said Lugh. 

"We do not want one. We have numberless 
sorcerers and druids." 

The Rise of the Sun-God 85 

" I am a physician/ 1 said Lugh. 

" Diancecht is our physician." 

" I am a cup-bearer," said Lugh. 

" We already have nine of them." 

" I am a worker in bronze/' 

" We have no need of you. We already have a 
worker in bronze. His name is Crednd." 

" Then ask the king," said Lugh, " if he has with 
him a man who is master of all these crafts at once, 
for, if he has, there is no need for me to come to 

So the door-keeper went inside, and told the 
king that a man had come who called himself Lugh 
the loldanack 1 , or the " Master of all Arts", and 
that he claimed to know everything. 

The king sent out his best chess-player to play 
against the stranger. Lugh won, inventing a new 
move called " Lugh's enclosure". 

Then Nuada invited him in. Lugh entered, and 
sat down upon the chair called the "sage's seat", 
kept for the wisest man. 

Ogma, the champion, was showing off his strength. 
Upon the floor was a flagstone so large that four- 
score yokes of oxen would have been needed to 
move it. Ogma pushed it before him along the 
hall, and out at the door. Then Lugh rose from 
his chair, and pushed it back again. But this stone, 
huge as it was, was only a portion broken from a 
still greater rock outside the palace. Lugh picked 
it up, and put it back into its place. 

The Tuatha D6 Danann asked him to play the 

1 Pronounced Ilddna. 

86 Mythology of the British Islands 

harp to them. So he played the " sleep-tune ", and 
the king and all his court fell asleep, and did not 
wake until the same hour of the following day. 
Next he played a plaintive air, and they all wept. 
Lastly, he played a measure which sent them into 
transports of joy. 

When Nuada had seen all these numerous talents 
of Lugh, he began to wonder whether one so gifted 
would not be of great help against the Fomors. 
He took counsel with the others, and, by their 
advice, lent his throne to Lugh for thirteen days, 
taking the " sage's seat" at his side. 

Lugh summoned all the Tuatha D6 Danann to a 

" The Fomors are certainly going to make war 
on us," he said. "What can each of you do to 

Diancecht the Physician said: "I will completely 
cure everyone who is wounded, provided his head 
is not cut off, or his brain or spinal marrow hurt." 

" I," said Goibniu the Smith, "will replace every 
broken lance and sword with a new one, even though 
the war last seven years. And I will make the lances 
so well that they shall never miss their mark, or fail 
to kill. Dulb, the smith of the Fomors, cannot do 
as much as that. The fate of the fighting will be 
decided by my lances." 

"And I," said Credn6 the Bronze-worker, "will 
furnish all the rivets for the lances, the hilts for the 
swords, and the rims and bosses for the shields." 

"And I," said Luchtain^ the Carpenter, "will 
provide all the shields and lance-shafts." 

The Rise of the Sun-God 87 

Ogma the Champion promised to kill the King 
of the Fomors, with thrice nine of his followers, and 
to capture one-third of his army. 

II And you, O Dagda," said Lugh, "what will you 

II 1 will fight," said the Dagda, "both with force 
and craft. Wherever the two armies meet, I will 
crush the bones of the Fomors with my club, till 
they are like hailstones under a horse's feet." 

"And you, O Morn'gu?" said Lugh. 

" I will pursue them when they flee," she replied. 
" And I always catch what 1 chase." 

"And you, O Cairpr^, son of Etan?" said Lugh 
to the poet, "what can you do?" 

" I will pronounce an immediately-effective curse 
upon them ; by one of my satires I will take away 
all their honour, and, enchanted by me, they shall 
not be able to stand against our warriors." 

" And ye, O sorcerers, what will ye do?" 

"We will hurl by our magic arts," replied Math- 
gan, the head sorcerer, " the twelve mountains of 
Ireland at the Fomors. These mountains will be 
Slieve League, Denna Ulad, the Mourne Moun- 
tains, Bri Ruri, Slieve Bloom, Slieve Snechta, 
Slemish, Blai-Sliab, Nephin, Sliab Maccu Belgodon, 
Segais 1 , and Cruachan Aigle 2 ". 

Then Lugh asked the cup-bearers what they 
would do. 

"We will hide away by magic," they said, "the 
twelve chief lakes and the twelve chief rivers of 
Ireland from the Fomors, so that they shall not be 

1 The Curlieu Hills, between Roscommon and Sligo. f Croagh Patrick, 

88 Mythology of the British Islands 

able to find any water, however thirsty they may 
be; those waters will conceal themselves from the 
Fomors so that they shall not get a drop, while they 
will give drink to the people of the goddess Danu 
as long as the war lasts, even if it last seven years/' 
And they told Lugh that the twelve chief lakes were 
Lough Derg, Lough Luimnigh 1 , Lough Corrib, 
Lough Ree, Lough Mask, Strangford Lough, 
Lough Laeig, Lough Neagh, Lough Foyle, Lough 
Gara, Lough Reagh, and Mdrloch, and that the 
twelve chief rivers were the Bush, the Boyne, the 
Bann, the Nem, the Lee, the Shannon, the Moy, 
the Sligo, the Erne, the Finn, the Liffey, and the 

Finally, the Druid, Figol, son of Mamos, said: 
" I will send three streams of fire into the faces of 
the Fomors, and I will take away two-thirds of their 
valour and strength, but every breath drawn by the 
people of the goddess Danu will only make them 
more valorous and strong, so that even if the fight- 
ing lasts seven years, they will not be weary of it 

All decided to make ready for a war, and to give 
the direction of it to Lugh. 

1 The estuary of the Shannon. 



The preparations for this war are said to have 
lasted seven years. It was during the interval that 
there befel an episode which might almost be called 
the " Argonautica" of the Gaelic mythology. 1 

In spite of the dethronement of Bress, the Fomors 
still claimed their annual tribute from the tribe of the 
goddess Danu, and sent their tax-gatherers, nine 
times nine in number, to " Balor's Hill" to collect it. 
But, while they waited for the gods to come to 
tender their submission and their subsidy, they saw 
a young man approaching them. He was riding 
upon " Splendid Mane", the horse of Mananndn 
son of Ler, and was dressed in Mananndn's breast- 
plate and helmet, through which no weapon could 
wound their wearer, and he was armed with sword 
and shield and poisoned darts. " Like to the setting 
sun", says the story, " was the splendour of his coun- 
tenance and his forehead, and they were not able to 
look in his face for the greatness of his splendour." 
And no wonder! for he was Lugh the Far-shooter, 
the new-come sun-god of the Gaels. He fell upon 

1 This story of the Fate of the Children of Tuirenn is mentioned in the ninth- 
century "Cormac's Glossary". It is found in various Irish and Scottish MSS., 
including the Book of Lecan. The present re-telling is from Eugene O'Curry's 
translation, published in Atlantis^ Vol. IV. 

90 Mythology of the British Islands 

the Fomorian tax-gatherers, killing all but nine of 
them, and these he only spared that they might go 
back to their kinsmen and tell how the gods had 
received them. 

There was consternation in the under-sea country. 
"Who can this terrible warrior be?" asked Balor. 
" I know/' said Balor's wife; "he must be the son of 
our daugher Ethniu; and I foretell that, since he 
has cast in his lot with his father's people, we 
shall never bear rule in Erin again. " 

The chiefs of the Fomors saw that this slaughter 
of their tax-gatherers signified that the Tuatha D6 
Danann meant fighting. They held a council to 
debate on it There came to it Elathan and Tethra 
and Indech, kings of the Fomors; Bress himself, 
and Balor of the stout blows ; Cethlenn the crooked 
tooth, Balor's wife; Balor's twelve white-mouthed 
sons; and all the chief Fomorian warriors and 

Meanwhile, upon earth, Lugh was sending mes- 
sengers all over Erin to assemble the Tuatha De 
Danann. Upon this errand went Lugh's father 
Cian, who seems to have been a kind of lesser solar 
deity, 1 son of Diancecht, the god of medicine. As 
Cian was going over the plain of Muirthemne, 2 he 
saw three armed warriors approaching him, and, 
when they got nearer, he recognized them as the 
three sons of Tuirenn, son of Ogma, whose names 
were Brian, luchar, and lucharba. Between these 
three and Cian, with his brothers Ceth6 and Cu, 

1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, pp. 390- 396. 

3 A part of County Ixnith, between the Boyne and Dundalk, The heroic cycle 
connects it especially with Cuchulainn, Pronounced M&rthtmna or M&rkevna. 

The Gaelic Argonauts 91 

there was, for some reason, a private enmity. Cian 
saw that he was now at a disadvantage. " If my 
brothers were with me," he said to himself, "what a 
fight we would make; but, as I am alone, it will be 
best for me to conceal myself/' Looking round, he 
saw a herd of pigs feeding on the plain. Like all 
the gods, he had the faculty of shape-shifting; so, 
striking himself with a magic wand, he changed him- 
self into a pig, joined the herd, and began feeding 
with them. 

But he had been seen by the sons of Tuirenn. 
11 What has become of the warrior who was walking 
on the plain a moment ago?" said Brian to his 
brothers. "We saw him then," they replied, "but 
we do not know where he is now." " Then you 
have not used the proper vigilance which is needed 
in time of war," said the elder brother. " How- 
ever, I know what has become of him. He has 
struck himself with a druidical wand, and changed 
himself into a pig, and there he is, in that herd, 
rooting up the ground, just like all the other pigs. 
I can also tell you who he is. His name is Cian, 
and you know that he is no friend of ours." 

" It is a pity that he has taken refuge among the 
pigs," they replied, "for they belong to some one of 
the Tuatha D Danann, and, even if we were to kill 
them all, Cian might still escape us." 

Again Brian reproached his brothers. " You are 
very ignorant," he said, "if you cannot distinguish 
a magical beast from a natural beast. However, I 
will show you." And thereupon he struck his two 
brothers with his own wand of shape-changing, and 

93 Mythology of the British Islands 

turned them into two swift, slender hounds, and set 
them upon the pigs. 

The magic hounds soon found the magic pig, and 
drove it out of the herd on to the open plain. Then 
Brian threw his spear, and hit it. The wounded pig 
came to a stop. " It was an evil deed of yours, cast- 
ing that spear, " it cried, in a human voice, "for I 
am not a pig, but Cian, son of Diancecht. So give 
me quarter/' 

luchar and lucharba would have granted it, and 
let him go ; but their fiercer brother swore that Cian 
should be put an end to, even if he came back to 
life seven times. So Cian tried a fresh ruse. "Give 
me leave", he asked, "only to return to my own 
shape before you slay me." "Gladly," replied 
Brian, 4< for I would much rather kill a man than 
a pig." ^ 

So Cian spoke the befitting spell, cast off his 
pig's disguise, and stood before them in his own 
shape. "You will be obliged to spare my life 
now," he said. "We will not," replied Brian. 
"Then it will be the worst day's work for all of 
you that you ever did in your lives," he answered; 
" for, if you had killed me in the shape of a pig, you 
would only have had to pay the value of a pig, but 
if you kill me now, I tell you that there never has 
been, and there never will be, anyone killed in this 
world for whose death a greater blood- fine will be 
exacted than for mine." 

But the sons of Tuirenn would not listen to him. 
They slew him, and pounded his body with stones 
until it was a crushed mass. Six times they tried 

The Gaelic Argonauts 93 

to bury him, and the earth cast him back in horror; 
but, the seventh time, the mould held him, and they 
put stones upon him to keep him down. They left 
him buried there, and went to Tara. 

Meanwhile Lugh had been expecting his father's 
return. As he did not come, he determined to go 
and look for him. He traced him to the Plain of 
Muirthemne, and there he was at fault. But the 
indignant earth itself, which had witnessed the 
murder, spoke to Lugh, and told him everything. 
So Lugh dug up his father's corpse, and made 
certain how he had come to his death; then he 
mourned over him, and laid him back in the earth, 
and heaped a barrow over him, and set up a pillar 
with his name on it in ''ogam". 1 

He went back to Tara, and entered the great 
hall. It was filled with the people of the goddess 
Danu, and among them Lugh saw the three sons 
of Tuirenn. So he shook the " chiefs' chain ", with 
which the Gaels used to ask for a hearing in an 
assembly, and when all were silent, he said: 

" People of the goddess Danu, I ask you a ques- 
tion. What would be the vengeance that any of 
you would take upon one who had murdered his 

A great astonishment fell upon them, and Nuada, 
their king, said: " Surely it is not your father that 
has been murdered?" 

"It is," replied Lugh. "And I am looking at 

1 There is known to have been a hill called Ard Chein (Cian's Mound) in the 
district of Muirthemne, and O'Curry identifies it tentatively with one now called 

94 Mythology of the British Islands 

those who murdered him ; and they know how they 
did it better- than I do." 

" Then Nuada declared that nothing short of 
hewing the murderer of his father limb from limb 
would satisfy him, and all the others said the same, 
including the sons of Tuirenn. 

4 'The very ones who did the deed say that/' 
cried Lugh. "Then let them not leave the hall 
till they have settled with me about the blood-fine 
to be paid for it/ 1 

" If it was I who had killed your father/' said the 
king, " I should think myself lucky if you were 
willing to accept a fine instead of vengeance/' 

The sons of Tuirenn took counsel together in 
whispers. luchar and lucharba were in favour of 
admitting their guilt, but Brian was afraid that, ii 
they confessed, Lugh would withdraw his offer to 
accept a fine, and would demand their deaths. So 
he stood out, and said that, though it was not they 
who had killed Cian, yet, sooner than remain under 
Lugh's anger, as he suspected them, they would 
pay the same fine as if they had. 

" Certainly you shall pay the fine/' said Lugh, 
"and I will tell you what it shall be. It is this: 
three apples; and a pig's-skin; and a spear; and 
two horses and a chariot; and seven pigs; and a 
hound- whelp; and a cooking-spit; and three shouts 
on a hill: that is the fine, and, if you think it is too 
much, I will remit some of it, but, if you do not 
think it is too much, then pay it." 

" If it were a hundred times that," replied Brian, 
"we should not think it too much. Indeed, it 

The Gaelic Argonauts 95 

seems so little that I fear there must be some 
treachery concealed in it." 

" I do not think it too little," replied Lugh. 
41 Give me your pledge before the people of the 
goddess Danu that you will pay it faithfully, and 
I will give you mine that I will ask no more." 

So the sons of Tuirenn bound themselves before 
the Tuatha D6 Danann to pay the fine to Lugh. 

When they had sworn, and given sureties, Lugh 
turned to them again. " I will now ", he said, 
" explain to you the nature of the fine you have 
pledged yourselves to pay me, so that you may 
know whether it is too little or not" And, with 
foreboding hearts, the sons of Tuirenn set them- 
selves to listen. 

" The three apples that I have demanded," he 
began, "are three apples from the Garden of the 
Hesperides, in the east of the world. You will 
know them by three signs. They are the size of 
the head of a month-old child, they are of the 
colour of burnished gold, and they taste of honey. 
Wounds are healed and diseases cured by eating 
them, and they do not diminish in any way by 
being eaten. Whoever casts one of them hits 
anything he wishes, and then it comes back into 
his hand. I will accept no other apples instead of 
these. Their owners keep them perpetually guarded 
because of a prophecy that three young warriors 
from the west of the world will come to take them 
by force, and, brave as you may be, I do not think 
that you will ever get them. 

"The pig's-skin that 1 have demanded is the 

96 Mythology of the British Islands 

pig's-skin of Tuis, King of Greece. It has two 
virtues: its touch perfectly cures all wounded or 
sick persons if only there is any life still left in 
them; and every stream of water through which it 
passes is turned into wine for nine days. I do not 
think that you will get it from the King of Greece, 
either with his consent or without it. 

" And can you guess what spear it is that I have 
demanded?" asked Lugh. " We cannot," they said. 
" It is the poisoned spear of Pisear 1 , King of Persia; 
it is irresistible in battle; it is so fiery that its blade 
must always be held under water, lest it destroy the 
city in which it is kept. You will find it very difficult 
to obtain. 

" And the two horses and the chariot are the two 
wonderful horses of Dobhar 2 , King of Sicily, which 
run equally well over land and sea; there are no 
other horses in the world like them, and no other 
vehicle equal to the chariot. 

"And the seven pigs are the pigs of Easal 8 , 
King of the Golden Pillars; though they may be 
killed every night, they are found alive again the 
next day, and every person that eats part of them 
can never be afflicted with any disease. 

"And the hound-whelp I claim is the hound- 
whelp of the King of loruaidhe 4 ; her name is 
Failinis; every wild beast she sees she catches at 
once. It will not be easy for you to secure her. 

" The cooking-spit which you must get for me is 
one of the cooking-spits of the women of the Island 

i Pronounced P&ar. * Pronounced Dobar. 

3 Pronounced Asal. 4 Pronounced IrOda. 

The Gaelic Argonauts 97 

of Fianchuivd 1 , which is at the bottom of the sea, 
between Erin and Alba. 

" You have also pledged yourselves to give three 
shouts upon a hill. The hill upon which they must 
be given is the hill called Cnoc Miodhchaoin 2 , in 
the north of Lochlann 3 . Miodhchaoin and his sons 
do not allow shouts to be given on that hill ; besides 
this, it was they who gave my father his military 
education, and, even if I were to forgive you, they 
would not ; so that, though you achieve all the other 
adventures, I think that you will fail in this one. 

" Now you know what sort of a fine it is that you 
have bargained to pay me," said Lugh. 

And fear and astonishment fell upon the sons of 

This tale is evidently the work of some ancient 
Irish story-teller who wished to compile from various 
sources a more or less complete account of how the 
Gaelic gods obtained their legendary possessions. 
The spear of Pisear, King of Persia, is obviously 
the same weapon as the lance of Lugh, which 
another tradition describes as having been brought 
by the Tuatha D6 Danann from their original home 
in the city of Gorias; 4 Failinis, the whelp of the 
King of loruaidhe, is Lugh's " hound of mightiest 
deeds ", which was irresistible in battle, and which 
turned any running water it bathed in into wine, 6 
a property here transferred to the magic pig's-skin 
of King Tuis: the seven swine of the King of the 

1 Pronounced Finc&ra. 3 The Hill (cnoc) of Midktna. 

3 A mythical country inhabited by Fomors. 

4 See chap, vi " The Gods Arrive ". Ibid. 
(B219) G 

98 Mythology of the British Islands 

Golden Pillars must be the same undying porkers 
from whose flesh Mananndn mac Lir made the 
" Feast of Age " which preserved the eternal youth 
of the gods; 1 it was with horses and chariot that 
ran along the surface of the sea that Mananndn 
used to journey to and fro between Erin and the 
Celtic Elysium in the West; 2 the apples that grew 
in the Garden of the Hesperides were surely of the 
same celestial growth as those that fed the inhabit- 
ants of that immortal country; 8 while the cooking- 
spit reminds us of three such implements at Tara, 
made by Goibniu and associated with the names of 
the Dagda and the Morrigii. 4 

The burden of collecting all these treasures was 
placed upon the shoulders of the three sons of 

They consulted together, and agreed that they 
could never hope to succeed unless they had Ma- 
nanndn's magic horse, " Splendid Mane", and Ma- 
nanndn's magic coracle, " Wave -sweeper ". But 
both these had been lent by Mananndn to Lugh 
himself. So the sons of Tuirenn were obliged to 
humble themselves to beg them from Lugh. The 
sun-god would not lend them the horse, for fear of 
making their task too easy, but he let them have 
the boat, because he knew how much the spear of 
Pisear and the horses of Dobhar would be needed 
in the coming war with the Fomors. They bade 
farewell to their father, and went down to the shore 
and put out to sea, taking their sister with them. 

1 See chap. VI " The Gods Arrive ". * See chap, xi "The Gods in Exile", 
' /H4. 4 Petrie: Hist. <*nd Antiq. of Tara Hill. 

The Gaelic Argonauts 99 

11 Which portion of the fine shall we seek first?" 
said the others to Brian. " We will seek them in 
the order in which they were demanded/ 1 he replied. 
So they directed the magic boat to sail to the Garden 
of the Hesperides, and presently they arrived there. 

They landed at a harbour, and held a council of 
war. It was decided that their best chance of ob- 
taining three of the apples would be by taking the 
shapes of hawks. Thus they would have strength 
enough in their claws to carry the apples away, 
together with sufficient quickness upon the wing to 
hope to escape the arrows, darts, and sling-stones 
which would be shot and hurled at them by the 
warders of the garden. 

They swooped down upon the orchard from above. 
It was done so swiftly that they carried off the three 
apples, unhit either by shaft or stone. But their 
difficulties were not yet over. The king of the 
country had three daughters who were well skilled 
in witchcraft. By sorcery they changed themselves 
into three ospreys, and pursued the three hawks. 
But the sons of Tuirenn reached the shore first, 
and, changing themselves into swans, dived into 
the sea. They came up close to their coracle, and 
got into it, and sailed swiftly away with the spoil. 

Thus their first quest was finished, and they 
voyaged on to Greece, to seek the pig's-skin of King 
Tuis. No one could go without some excuse into 
a king's court, so they decided to disguise them- 
selves as poets, and to tell the door-keeper that 
they were professional bards from Erin, seeking 
largess at the hands of kings. The porter let them 

ioo Mythology of the British Islands 

into the great hall, where the poets of Greece were 
singing before the king. 

When those had all finished, Brian rose, and 
asked permission to show his art. This was ac- 
corded; and he sang: 

" O Tuis, we conceal not thy fame. 
We praise thee as the oak above the kings; 
The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness! 
This is the reward which I ask for it. 

" A stormy host and raging sea 
Are a dangerous power, should one oppose it. 
The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness ! 
This is the reward I ask, O Tuis." 

"That is a good poem," said the king, "only I 
do not understand it." 

" I will explain it," said Brian. "' We praise thee 
as the oak above the kings' \ this means that, as the 
oak excels all other trees, so do you excel all other 
kings in nobility and generosity. ' The skin of a 
pig> bounty without hardness '; that is a pig's-skin 
which you have, O Tuis, and which I should like to 
receive as the reward of my poem. * A stormy host 
and raging sea are a dangerous power, should one 
oppose it* \ this means to say, that we are not used 
to going without anything on which we have set our 
hearts, O Tuis." 

" I should have liked your poem better," replied 
the king, " if my pig's-skin had not been mentioned 
in it. It was not a wise thing for you to have done, 
O poet But I will measure three fills of red gold 
out of the skin, and you shall have those," 


From the Drawing by J. H. Bacon, A. R.A. 

The Gaelic Argonauts 101 

" May all good be thine, O King!" answered 
Brian. " I knew that I should get a noble re- 
ward/ 1 

So the king sent for the pig's -skin to measure 
out the gold with. But, as soon as Brian saw it, 
he seized it with his left hand, and slew the man 
who was holding it, and luchar and lucharba also 
hacked about them ; and they cut their way down to 
the boat, leaving the King of Greece among the 
dead behind them. 

"And now we will go and get King Pisear's 
spear," said Brian. So, leaving Greece, they sailed 
in their coracle to Persia. 

Their plan of disguising themselves as poets had 
served them so well that they decided to make use 
of it again. So they went into the King of Persia's 
hall in the same way as they had entered that of the 
King of Greece. Brian first listened to the poets of 
Persia singing; then he sang his own song: 

" Small the esteem of any spear with Pisear; 
The battles of foes are broken ; 
No oppression to Pisear; 
Everyone whom he wounds. 

" A yew-tree, the finest of the wood, 
It is called King without opposition. 
May that splendid shaft drive on 
Yon crowd into their wounds of death." 

" That is a good poem, O man of Erin," said the 
king, "but why is my spear mentioned in it?" 

"The meaning is this/' replied Brian: "I should 
like to receive that spear as a reward for my poem/ 1 

IO2 Mythology of the British Islands 

" You make a rash request, 1 ' said the king. " If 
I spare your life after having heard it, it will be a 
sufficient reward for your poem." 

Brian had one of the magic apples in his hand, 
and he remembered its boomerang-like quality. He 
hurled it full in the King of Persia's face, dashing 
out his brains. The Persians flew to arms, but the 
three sons of Tuirenn conquered them, and made 
them yield up the spear. 

They had now to travel to Sicily, to obtain the 
horses and chariot of King Dobhar. But they were 
afraid to go as poets this time, for fear the fame of 
their deeds might have got abroad. They therefore 
decided to pretend to be mercenary soldiers from 
Erin, and offer the King of Sicily their service. 
This, they thought, would be the easiest way of 
finding out where the horses and the chariot were 
kept. So they went and stood on the green before 
the royal court. 

When the King of Sicily heard that there had 
come mercenaries from Erin, seeking wages from 
the kings of the world, he invited them to take 
service with him. They agreed; but, though they 
stayed with him a fortnight and a month, they never 
saw the horses, or even found out where they were 
kept. So they went to the king, and announced 
that they wished to leave him. 

"Why?" he asked, for he did not want them to 

" We will tell you, O King!" replied Brian. " It 
Is because we have not been honoured with your 
confidence, as we have been accustomed with other 

Tht Gaelic Argonauts 103 

kings. You have two horses and a chariot, the best 
in the world, and we have not even been allowed to 
see them. 11 

" I would have shown them to you on the first 
day if you had asked me/' said the king; "and you 
shall see them at once, for I have seldom had war- 
riors with me so good as you are, and I do not wish 
you to leave me." 

So he sent for the steeds, and had them yoked to 
the chariot, and the sons of Tuirenn were witnesses 
of their marvellous speed, and how they could run 
equally well over land or water. 

Brian made a sign to his brothers, and they 
watched their opportunity carefully, and, as the 
chariot passed close beside them, Brian leaped into 
it, hurling its driver over the side. Then, turning 
the horses, he struck King Dobhar with Pisear's 
spear, and killed him. He took his two brothers 
up into the chariot and they drove away. 

By the time the sons of Tuirenn reached the 
country of Easal, King of the Pillars of Gold, 
rumour had gone before them. The king came 
down to the harbour to meet them, and asked them 
if it were really true that so many kings had fallen 
at their hands. They replied that it was true, but 
that they had no quarrel with any of them; only 
they must obtain at all costs the fine demanded by 
Lugh. Then Easal asked them why they had come 
to his land, and they told him that they needed his 
seven pigs to add to the tribute. So Easal thought 
it better to give them up, and to make friends with 
the three sons of Tuirenn, than to fight with such 

1O4 Mythology of the British Islands 

warriors. The sons of Tuirenn were very glad at 
this, for they were growing weary of battles. 

It happened that the King of loruaidhe, who had 
the hound-whelp that Lugh had demanded, was the 
husband of King Easal's daughter. Therefore King 
Easal did not wish that there should be fighting be- 
tween him and the three sons of Tuirenn. He pro- 
posed to Brian and his brothers that he should sail 
with them to loruaidhe, and try to persuade the king 
of the country to give up the hound-whelp peace- 
fully. They consented, and all set foot safely on 
the "delightful, wonderful shores of loruaidhe V as 
the manuscript calls them. But King Easal's 
son-in-law would not listen to reason. He as- 
sembled his warriors, and fought; but the sons 
of Tuirenn defeated them, and compelled their 
king to yield up the hound-whelp as the ransom 
for his life. 

All these quests had been upon the earth, but the 
next was harder. No coracle, not even Mananndn's 
"Wave-sweeper'', could penetrate to the Island of 
Fianchuiv^, in the depths of the sea that severs 
Erin from Alba. So Brian left his brothers, and 
put on his " water-dress, with his transparency of 
glass upon his head " evidently an ancient Irish 
anticipation of the modern diver's dress. Thus 
equipped, he explored the bottom of the sea for 
fourteen days before he found the island. But 
when at last he reached it, and entered the hall 
of its queen, she and her sea-maidens were so 
amazed at Brian's hardihood in having penetrated 

1 The country seems to have been identified with Norway or Iceland. 

The Gaelic Argonauts 105 

to their kingdom that they presented him with the 
cooking-spit, and sent him back safe. 

By this time, Lugh had found out by his magic 
arts that the sons of Tuirenn had obtained all the 
treasures he had demanded as the blood-fine. He 
desired to get them safely into his own custody 
before his victims went to give their three shouts 
upon Miodhchaoin's Hill. He therefore wove a 
druidical spell round them, so that they forgot the 
rest of their task altogether, and sailed back to Erin. 
They searched for Lugh, to give him the things, but 
he had gone away, leaving word that they were to 
be handed over to Nuada, the Tuatha D6 Danann 
king. As soon as they were in safe-keeping, Lugh 
came back to Tara and found the sons of Tuirenn 
there. And he said to them : 

" Do you not know that it is unlawful to keep 
back any part of a blood-fine? So have you given 
those three shouts upon Miodhchaoin's Hill?" 

Then the magic mist of forgetfulness fell from 
them, and they remembered. Sorrowfully they 
went back to complete their task. 

Miodhchaoin 1 himself was watching for them, and, 
when he saw them land, he came down to the beach. 
Brian attacked him, and they fought with the swift- 
ness of two bears and the ferocity of two lions until 
Miodhchaoin fell. 

Then Miodhchaoin's three sons Core, Conn, and 
Aedh came out to avenge their father, and they 
drove their spears through the bodies of the three 
sons of Tuirenn. But the three sons of Tuirenn 

1 Pronounced Midkena* 

106 Mythology of the British Islands 

also drove their spears through the bodies of the 
three sons of Miodhchaoin. 

The three sons of Miodhchaoin were killed, and 
the three sons of Tuirenn were so sorely wounded 
that birds might have flown through their bodies 
from one side to the other. Nevertheless Brian 
was still able to stand upright, and he held his two 
brothers, one in each hand, and kept them on their 
feet, and, all together, they gave three faint, feeble 

Their coracle bore them, still living, to Erin. 
They sent their father Tuirenn as a suppliant to 
Lugh, begging him to lend them the magic pig's- 
skin to heal their wounds. 

But Lugh would not, for he had counted upon 
their fight with the sons of Miodhchaoin to avenge 
his father Cian's death. So the children of Tuirenn 
resigned themselves to die, and their father made a 
farewell song over them and over himself, and died 
with them. 

Thus ends that famous tale " The Fate of the 
Sons of Tuirenn ", known as one of the " Three 
Sorrowful Stones of Erin". 1 

iThe other two are "The Fate of the Children of Lr", told in chap. XI, and 
"The Fate of the Sons of Usnach", an episode of the Heroic Cycle, related in 
chap, xiu. 



By this time the seven years of preparation had 
come to an end. A week before the Day of Sam- 
hain, the Morrfgii discovered that the Fomors had 
landed upon Erin. She at once sent a messenger 
to tell the Dagda, who ordered his druids and 
sorcerers to go to the ford of the River Unius, in 
Sligo, and utter incantations against them. 

The people of the goddess Danu, however, were 
not yet quite ready for battle. So the Dagda 
decided to visit the Fomorian camp as an ambas- 
sador, and, by parleying with them, to gain a little 
more time. The Fomors received him with ap- 
parent courtesy, and, to celebrate his coming, pre- 
pared him a feast of porridge; for it was well-known 
how fond he was of such food. They poured into 
their king's cauldron, which was as deep as five 
giant's fists, fourscore gallons of new milk, with 
meal and bacon in proportion. To this they added 
the whole carcasses of goats, sheep, and pigs; they 
boiled the mixture together, and poured it into a hole 
in the ground. " Now," said they, "if you do not 

1 This chapter is, with slight interpolations, based upon the Harleian MS. In 
the British Museum numbered 5280, and called the Second Battle of Moytura t or 
rather from translations made of it by Dr. Whitley Stokes, published in the Revut 
Celtique, Vol. XII, and by M. de Jubainville in his L^popte Celtique en Irlandc. 


io8 Mythology of the British Islands 

eat it all, we shall put you to death, for we will not 
have you go back to your own people and say that 
the Fomors are inhospitable. 11 But they did not 
succeed in frightening the Dagda. He took his 
spoon, which was so large that two persons of our 
puny size might have reclined comfortably in the 
middle of it, dipped it into the porridge, and fished 
up halves of salted pork and quarters of bacon. 

" If it tastes as good as it smells, " he said, "it is 
good fare." And so it proved; for he ate it all, and 
scraped up even what remained at the bottom of the 
hole. Then he went away to sleep it off, followed 
by the laughter of the Fomors; for his stomach 
was so swollen with food that he could hardly 
walk. It was larger than the biggest cauldron in 
a large house, and stood out like a sail before the 

But the Fomors' little practical joke upon the 
Dagda had given the Tuatha D6 Danann time to 
collect their forces. It was on the eve of Samhain 
that the two armies came face to face. Even then 
the Fomors could not believe that the people of the 
goddess Danu would offer them much resistance. 

" Do you think they will really dare to give us 
battle ?" said Bress to Indech, the son of Domnu. 
"If they do not pay their tribute, we will pound 
their bones for them/' he replied. 

The war of gods and giants naturally mirrored 
the warfare of the Gaels, in whose battles, as in those 
of most semi-barbarous people, single combat figured 
largely. The main armies stood still, while, every 
day, duels took place between ambitious combatants, 

The War with the Giants 109 

But no great warriors either of the Tuatha D6 
Danann or of the Fomors took part in them. 

Sometimes a god, sometimes a giant would be 
the victor; but there was a difference in the net 
results that astonished the Fomors. If their own 
swords and lances were broken, they were of no 
more use, and if their own champions were killed, 
they never came back to life again ; but it was quite 
otherwise with the people of the goddess Danu. 
Weapons shattered on one day re-appeared upon 
the next in as good condition as though they had 
never been used, and warriors slain on one day came 
back upon the morrow unhurt, and ready, if neces- 
sary, to be killed again. 

The Fomors decided to send someone to discover 
the secret of these prodigies. The spy they chose 
was Ruadan, the son of Bress and of Brigit, daughter 
of the Dagda, and therefore half-giant and half-god. 
He disguised himself as a Tuatha D Danann 
warrior, and went to look for Goibniu. He found 
him at his forge, together, with Luchtain, the car- 
penter, and Credn, the bronze- worker. He saw 
how Goibniu forged lance-heads with three blows of 
his hammer, while Luchtain6 cut shafts for them 
with three blows of his axe, and Credn6 fixed the 
two parts together so adroitly that his bronze nails 
needed no hammering in. He went back and told 
the Fomors, who sent him again, this time to try 
and kill Goibniu. 

He reappeared at the forge, and asked for a 
javelin. Without suspicion, Goibniu gave him one, 
and, as soon as he got it into his hand, he thrust \\ 

no Mythology of the British Islands 

through the smith's body. But Goibniu plucked it 
out, and, hurling it back at his assailant, mortally 
wounded him. Ruadan went home to die, and his 
father Bress and his mother Brigit mourned for him, 
inventing for the purpose the Irish " keening ". 
Goibniu, on the other hand, took no harm. He 
went to the physician Diancecht, who, with his 
daughter Airmid, was always on duty at a miracu- 
lous well called the " spring of health ". Whenever 
one of the Tuatha D6 Danann was killed or 
wounded, he was brought to the two doctors, who 
plunged him into the wonder-working water, and 
brought him back to life and health again. 

The mystic spring was not long, however, allowed 
to help the people of the goddess. A young Fo- 
morian chief, Octriallach son of Indech, found it out. 
He and a number of his companions went to it by 
night, each carrying a large stone from the bed of 
the River Drowes. These they dropped into the 
spring, until they had filled it, dispersed the healing 
water, and formed a cairn above it. Legend has 
identified this place by the name of the "Cairn of 
Octriallach ". 

This success determined the Fomors to fight a 
pitched battle. They drew out their army in line. 
There was not a warrior in it who had not a coat of 
mail and a helmet, a stout spear, a strong buckler, 
and a heavy sword. " Fighting the Fomors on that 
day ", says the old author, " could only be compared 
to one of three things beating one's head against a 
rock, or plunging it into a fire, or putting one's hand 
into a serpent's nest/' 

The War with the Giants 1 1 1 

All the great fighters of the Tuatha D Danann 
were drawn out opposite to them, except Lugh. A 
council of the gods had decided that his varied 
accomplishments made his life too valuable to be 
risked in battle. They had, therefore, left him 
behind, guarded by nine warriors. But, at the last 
moment, Lugh escaped from his warders, and ap- 
peared in his chariot before the army. He made 
them a patriotic speech. " Fight bravely/' he said, 
"that your servitude may last no longer; it is better 
to face death than to live in vassalage and pay 
tribute." With these encouraging words, he drove 
round the ranks, standing on tiptoe, so that all the 
Tuatha D6 Danann might see him. 

The Fomors saw him too, and marvelled. " It 
seems wonderful to me," 1 said Bress to his druids, 
" that the sun should rise in the west to-day and in 
the east every other day." " It would be better for 
us if it were so," replied the druids. "What else 
can it be, then?" asked Bress. "It is the radiance 
of the face of Lugh of the Long Arms," said they. 

Then the two armies charged each other with a 
great shout. Spears and lances smote against shields, 
and so great was the shouting of the fighters, the 
shattering of shields, the clattering of swords, the 
rattling of quivers, and the whistling of darts and 
javelins that it seemed as if thunder rolled every- 

They fought so closely that the heads, hands, and 

1 1 have interpolated this picturesque passage from the account of a fight between 
the Tuatha D6 Danann and the Fomors in the " Fate of the Children of Tuirenn ", 
Q'Curry's translation in Atlantis, Vol. JY, 

H2 Mythology of the British Islands 

feet of those on one side were touching the heads, 
hands, and feet of those on the other side; they 
shed so much blood on to the ground that it became 
hard to stand on it without slipping; and the river 
of Unsenn was filled with dead bodies, so hard and 
swift and bloody and cruel was the battle. 

Many great chiefs fell on each side. Ogma, the 
champion of the Tuatha De Danann, killed Indech, 
the son of the goddess Domnu. But, meanwhile, 
Balor of the Mighty Blows raged among the gods, 
slaying their king, Nuada of the Silver Hand, as well 
as Macha, one of his warlike wives. At last he 
met with Lugh. The sun-god shouted a challenge 
to his grandfather in the Fomorian speech. Balor 
heard it, and prepared to use his death-dealing 

11 Lift up my eyelid," he said to his henchmen, 
"that I may see this chatterer who talks to 


The attendants lifted Balor's eye with a hook, 
and if the glance of the eye beneath had rested 
upon Lugh, he would certainly have perished. But, 
when it was half opened, Lugh flung a magic stone 
which struck Balor's eye out through the back of his 
head The eye fell on the ground behind Balor, and 
destroyed a whole rank of thrice nine Fomors who 
were unlucky enough to be within sight of it. 

An ancient poem has handed down the secret of 
this magic stone. It is there called a tathlum, mean- 
ing a " concrete ball " such as the ancient Irish war- 
riors used sometimes to make out of the brains of 
dead enemies hardened with lime. 

The War with the Giants 113 

" A tathlum, heavy, fiery, firm, 
Which the Tuatha D6 Danann had with them, 
It was that broke the fierce Balor's eye, 
Of old, in the battle of the great armies. 

" The blood of toads and furious bears, 
And the blood of the noble lion, 
The blood of vipers and of Osmuinn's trunks; 
It was of these the tathlum was composed. 

" The sand of the swift Armorian sea, 
And the sand of the teeming Red Sea; 
All these, being first purified, were used 
In the composition of the tathlum. 

41 Briun, the son of Bethar, no mean warrior, 
Who on the ocean's eastern border reigned;- 
It was he that fused, and smoothly formed, 
It was he that fashioned the tathlum. 

" To the hero Lugh was given 
This concrete ball, no soft missile; 
In Mag Tuireadh of shrieking wails, 
From his hand he threw the tathlum." l 

This blinding of the terrible Balor turned the for- 
tunes of the fight; for the Fomors wavered, and the 
Morrfgii came and encouraged the people of the 
goddess Danu with a song, beginning " Kings arise 
to the battle' 1 , so that they took fresh heart, and 
drove the Fomors headlong back to their country 
underneath the sea. 

Such was the battle which is called in Irish 
Mag Tuireadh na b-Fomorach, that is to say, the 

1 This translation was made by Eugene O'Curry from an ancient vellum MS. 
formerly belonging to Mr. W. Monck Mason, but since sold by auction in London. 
See his Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Lecture XII, p. 252. 

( B 219 \ \\ 

H4 Mythology of the British Islands 

"Plain of the Towers of the Fomors", and, more 
popularly, the " Battle of Moytura the Northern", to 
distinguish it from the other Battle of Moytura 
fought by the Tuatha D6 Danann against the Fir 
Bolgs farther to the south. More of the Fomors 
were killed in it, says the ancient manuscript, than 
there are stars in the sky, grains of sand on the sea- 
shore, snow-flakes in winter, drops of dew upon the 
meadows in spring-time, hailstones during a storm, 
blades of grass trodden under horses' feet, or Man- 
anndn son of Lr's white horses, the waves of the 
sea, when a tempest breaks. The "towers" or 
pillars said to mark the graves of the combatants 
still stand upon the plain of Carrowmore, near Sligo, 
and form, in the opinion of Dr. Petrie, the finest col- 
lection of prehistoric monuments in the world, with 
the sole exception of Carnac, in Brittany. 1 Mega- 
lithic structures of almost every kind are found 
among them stone cairns with dolmens in their 
interiors, dolmens standing open and alone, dolmens 
surrounded by one, two, or three circles of stones, 
and circles without dolmens to the number of over 
a hundred. Sixty-four of such prehistoric remains 
stand together upon an elevated plateau not more 
than a mile across, and make the battle-field of Moy- 
tura, though the least known, perhaps the most im- 
pressive of all primeval ruins. What they really 
commemorated we may never know, but, in all pro- 
bability, the place was the scene of some important 
and decisive early battle, the monuments marking 
the graves of the chieftains who were interred as the 

1 $ee Fcrgusson ; Rude Stone Monuments, pp. 180, #c. 
















The War with the Giants 115 

result of it Those which have been examined were 
found to contain burnt wood and the half-burnt bones 
of men and horses, as well as implements of flint and 
bone. The actors, therefore, were still in the Neo- 
lithic Age. Whether the horses were domesticated 
ones buried with their riders, or wild ones eaten at 
the funeral feasts, it would be hard to decide. The 
history of the real event must have been long 
lost even at the early date when its relics were 
pointed out as the records of a battle between the 
gods and the giants of Gaelic myth. 

The Tuatha D6 Danann, following the routed 
Fomors, overtook and captured Bress. He begged 
Lugh to spare his life. 

"What ransom will you pay for it?" asked 

" I will guarantee that the cows of Ireland shall 
always be in milk," promised Bress. 

But, before accepting, Lugh took counsel with his 

14 What good will that be," they decided, " if Bress 
does not also lengthen the lives of the cows?" 

This was beyond the power of Bress to do; so he 
made another offer. 

"Tell your people," he said to Lugh, "that, if 
they will spare my life, they shall have a good wheat 
harvest every year." 

But they said: "We already have the spring to 
plough and sow in, the summer to ripen the crops, 
the autumn for reaping, and the winter in which to 
eat the bread; and that is all we want" 

Lugh told this to Bress. But he also said: " You 

Ii6 Mythology of the British Islands 

shall have your life in return for a much less service 
to us than that" 

" What is it?" asked Bress. 

"Tell us when we ought to plough, when we 
ought to sow, and when we ought to harvest." 

Bress replied: " You should plough on a Tuesday, 
sow on a Tuesday, and harvest on a Tuesday." 

And this lying maxim (says the story) saved 
Bress 's life. 

Lugh, the Dagda, and Ogma still pursued the 
Fomors, who had carried off in their flight the Dag- 
da's harp. They followed them into the submarine 
palace where Bress and Elathan lived, and there 
they saw the harp hanging on the wall. This harp 
of the Dagda's would not play without its owner's 
leave. The Dagda sang to it : 

" Come, oak of the two cries ! 
Come, hand of fourfold music! 
Come, summer! Come, winter! 
Voice of harps, bellows 1 , and flutes!" 

For the Dagda's harp had these two names ; it was 
called "Oak of the two cries" and " Hand of four- 
fold music". 

It leaped down from the wall, killing nine of the 
Fomors as it passed, and came into the Dagda's 
hand. The Dagda played to the Fomors the three 
tunes known to all clever harpists the weeping- 
tune, the laughing -tune, and the sleeping -tune. 
While he played the weeping-tune, they were bowed 
with weeping; while he played the laughing- tune, 

i ? Bagpipes, 

The War with the Giants 117 

they rocked with laughter; and when he played the 
sleeping-tune, they all fell asleep. And while they 
slept, Lugh, the Dagda, and Ogma got away safely. 

Next, the Dagda brought the black-maned heifer 
which he had, by the advice of Angus son of the 
Young, obtained from Bress. The wisdom of Angus 
had been shown in this advice, for it was this very 
heifer that the cattle of the people of the goddess 
Danu were accustomed to follow, whenever it lowed 
Now, when it lowed, all the cattle which the Fomors 
had taken away from the Tuatha D6 Danann came 
back again. 

Yet the power of the Fomors was not wholly 
broken. Four of them still carried on a desultory 
warfare by spoiling the corn, fruit, and milk of their 
conquerors. But the Morrfgii and Badb and Mider 
and Angus pursued them, and drove them out of 
Ireland for ever. 1 

Last of all, the Morrigii and Badb went up on to 
the summits of all the high mountains of Ireland, 
and proclaimed the victory. All the lesser gods 
who had not been in the battle came round and 
heard the news. And Badb sang a song which 

began : 

" Peace mounts to the heavens, 
The heavens descend to earth, 
Earth lies under the heavens, 
Everyone is strong . . .", 

but the rest of it has been lost and forgotten. 

Then she added a prophecy in which she foretold 

*Book of Fermoy. See Revue Celtique, Vol. I. "The Ancient Irish Ooddesi 
of War". 

ri8 Mythology of the British Islands 

the approaching end of the divine age, and the 
beginning of a new one in which summers % would 
be flowerless and cows milkless and women shame- 
less ana men strengthless, in which there would be 
trees without fruit and seas without fish, when old 
men would give false judgments and legislators 
make unjust laws, when warriors would betray one 
another, and men would be thieves, and there would 
be no more virtue left in the world 



Of what Badb had in mind when she uttered 
this prophecy we have no record. But it was true. 
The twilight of the Irish gods was at hand. A 
new race was coming across the sea to dispute the 
ownership of Ireland with the people of the goddess 
Danu. And these new-comers were not divinities 
like themselves, but men like ourselves, ancestors 
of the Gaels. 

This story of the conquest of the gods by mortals 
which seems such a strange one to us is typi- 
cally Celtic. The Gaelic mythology is the only one 
which has preserved it in any detail; but the doc- 
trine would seem to have been common at one time 
to all the Celts. It was, however, of less shame to 
the gods than would otherwise have been; for men 
were of as divine descent as themselves. The 
dogma of the Celts was that men were descended 
from the god of death, and first came from the 
Land of the Dead to take possession of the present 
world. 1 Caesar tells us, in his too short account of 
the Gauls, that they believed themselves to be 

* It may be noted that, according to Welsh legend, the ancestor! of the Cymri 
came from Gwl&d yr H&v, the " Land of Summer", i.c. the Celtic Other World. 


c ao Mythology of the British Islands 

sprung from Dis Pater, the god of the underworld. 1 
In the Gaelic mythology Dis Pater was called Bil6, 
a name which has for root the syllable bel, meaning 
"to die". The god Beli in British mythology was 
no doubt the same person, while the same idea is 
expressed by the same root in the name of Balor, 
the terrible Fomor whose glance was death. 2 

The post-Christian Irish chroniclers, seeking to 
reconcile Christian teachings with the still vital 
pagan mythology by changing the gods into ancient 
kings and incorporating them into the annals of the 
country, with appropriate dates, also disposed of the 
genuine early doctrine by substituting Spain for 
Hades, and giving a highly-fanciful account of the 
origin and wanderings of their ancestors. To use 
a Hibernicism, appropriate in this connection, the 
first Irishman was a Scythian called Fenius Farsa. 
Deprived of his own throne, he had settled in 
Egypt, where his son Niul married a daughter of 
the reigning Pharaoh. Her name was Scota, and 
she had a son called Goidel, whose great-grandson 
was named Eber Scot, the whole genealogy being 
probably invented to explain the origin of the three 
names by which the Gaels called themselves Finn, 
Scot, and Goidel. Fenius and his family and clan 
were turned out of Egypt for refusing to join in the 
persecution of the children of Israel, and sojourned 
in Africa for forty-two years. Their wanderings 
took them to "the altars of the Philistines, by the 

*DeBello Gallico, Book VI, chap. xvni. 

a De Jubainville: Cycle My thologique, chap. X. Rhys: Hibbert Lectures "The 
Gaulish Pantheon ". 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 121 

Lake of Osiers' 1 ; then, passing between Rusicada 
and the hilly country of Syria, they travelled 
through Mauretania as far as the Pillars of Her- 
cules; and thence landed in Spain, where they lived 
many years, greatly increasing and multiplying. 
The same route is given by the twelfth-century 
British historian, Geoffrey of Monmouth, as that 
taken by Brutus and the Trojans when they came 
to colonize Britain. 1 Its only connection with any 
kind of fact is that it corresponds fairly well with 
what ethnologists consider must have been the 
westward line of migration taken, not, curiously 
enough, by the Aryan Celts, but by the pre- Aryan 

It is sufficient for us to find the first men in 
Spain, remembering that " Spain " stood for the 
Celtic Hades, or Elysium. In this country Bregon, 
the father of two sons, Bile and Ith, had built a 
watch-tower, from which, one winter's evening, Ith 
saw, far off over the seas, a land he had never 
noticed before, "It is on winter evenings, when 
the air is pure, that man's eyesight reaches 
farthest ", remarks the old tract called the " Book 
of Invasions ", 2 gravely accounting for the fact that 
Ith saw Ireland from Spain. 

Wishing to examine it nearer, he set sail with 
thrice thirty warriors, and landed without mishap at 
the mouth of the River Scn6. 8 The country seemed 
to him to be uninhabited, and he marched with his 

1 Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historic, Britonwn, Book I, chap. IL 
8 Contained in the Book of Leinster and other ancient manuscripts, 
3 Now called the Kenmare River. 

122 Mythology of the British Islands 

men towards the north. At last he reached Aileach, 
near the present town of Londonderry. 

Here he found the three reigning kings of the 
people of the goddess Danu, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, 
and Mac Grein6, the sons of Ogma, and grandsons 
of the Dagda. These had succeeded Nuada the 
Silver-handed, killed in the battle with the Fomors; 
and had met, after burying their predecessor in a 
tumulus called Grianan Aileach, which still stands 
on the base of the Inishowen Peninsula, between 
Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, to divide his king 
dom among them. Unable to arrive at any parti- 
tion satisfactory to all, they appealed to the new- 
comer to arbitrate. 

The advice of Ith was moral rather than practical. 
" Act according to the laws of justice " was all that 
he would say to the claimants; and then he was 
indiscreet enough to burst into enthusiastic praises 
of Ireland for its temperate climate and its richness 
in fruit, honey, wheat, and fish. Such sentiments 
from a foreigner seemed to the Tuatha D Danann 
suggestive of a desire to take the country from 
them. They conspired together and treacherously 
killed Ith at a place since called " Ith's Plain ". 
They, however, spared his followers, who returned 
to " Spain ", taking their dead leader's body with 
them. The indignation there was great, and Mil6, 
Bite's son and Ith's nephew, determined to go to 
Ireland and get revenge. 

Mil therefore sailed with his eight sons and 
their wives. Thirty-six chiefs, each with his shipful 
of warriors, accompanied him. By the magic arts 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 123 

of their druid, Amergin of the Fair Knee, they 
discovered the exact place at which Ith had landed 
before them, and put in to shore there. Two alone 
failed to reach it alive. The wife of Amergin died 
during the voyage, and Aranon, a son of Mil6, on 
approaching the land, climbed to the top of the 
mast to obtain a better view, and, falling off, was 
drowned. The rest disembarked safely upon the 
first of May. 

Amergin was the first to land. Planting his right 
foot on Irish soil, he burst into a poem preserved in 
both the Book of Lecan and the Book of Ballymote. 1 
It is a good example of the pantheistic philosophy 
of the Celtic races, and a very close parallel to it 
is contained in an early Welsh poem, called the 
" Battle of the Trees ", and attributed to the famous 
bard Taliesin. 2 " I am the wind that blows upon 
the sea," sang Amergin; "I am the ocean wave; I 
am the murmur of the surges; I am seven bat- 
talions; I am a strong bull; I am an eagle on a 
rock; I am a ray of the sun; I am the most beauti- 
ful of herbs; I am a courageous wild boar; I am a 
salmon in the water; I am a lake upon a plain; I 
am a cunning artist; I am a gigantic, sword- wielding 
champion; I can shift my shape like a god. In 
what direction shall we go? Shall we hold our 
council in the valley or on the mountain - top ? 
Where shall we make our home? What land is 
better than this island of the setting sun? Where 

* This poem and the three following ones, all attributed to Amergin, are said to 
be the oldest Irish literary records. 

2 Book of Taliesin, poem vui, in Skene's Four Ancient Books of Wales, Vol I, 
p. 276. 

1 24 Mythology of the British Islands 

shall we walk to and fro in peace and safety? 
Who can find you clear springs of water as I can? 
Who can tell you the age of the moon but I ? Who 
can call the fish from the depths of the sea as I 
can? Who can cause them to come near the shore 
as I can? Who can change the shapes of the hills 
and headlands as I can? I am a bard who is called 
upon by seafarers to prophesy. Javelins shall be 
wielded to avenge our wrongs. I prophesy victory. 
I end my song by prophesying all other good 
things." 1 

The Welsh bard Taliesin sings in the same strain 
as the druid Amergin his unity with, and therefore 
his power over, all nature, animate and inanimate. 
" I have been in many shapes", he says, " before I 
attained a congenial form. I have been a narrow 
blade of a sword; I have been a drop in the air; 
I have been a shining star; I have been a word 
in a book; I have been a book in the beginning; 
I have been a light in a lantern a year and a half; 
I have been a bridge for passing over threescore 
rivers; I have journeyed as an eagle; I have been 
a boat on the sea; I have been a director in battle; 
I have been a sword in the hand; I have been a 
shield in fight; I have been the string of a harp; 
I have been enchanted for a year in the foam of 
water. There is nothing in which I have not been/' 
It is strange to find Gael and Briton combining to 
voice almost in the same words this doctrine of the 
mystical Celts, who, while still in a state of semi- 

i De Jubainvillc: Cycle Mythologique. See also the Transactions of the Osnanic 
Society, Vol. V. 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 125 

barbarism, saw, with some of the greatest of ancient 
and modern philosophers, the One in the Many, and 
a single Essence in all the manifold forms of life. 

The Milesians (for so, following the Irish annal- 
ists, it will be convenient to call the first Gaelic 
settlers in Ireland) began their march on Tara, 
which was the capital of the Tuatha De Danann, 
as it had been in earlier days the chief fortress of 
the Fir Bolgs, and would in later days be the 
dwelling of the high kings of Ireland. On their 
way they met with a goddess called Banba, the 
wife of Mac Cuill. She greeted Amergin. " If 
you have come to conquer Ireland," she said, 
"your cause is no just one/ 1 " Certainly it is to 
conquer it we have come," replied Amergin, with- 
out condescending to argue upon the abstract 
morality of the matter. " Then at least grant me 
one thing," she asked. "What is that?" replied 
Amergin. " That this island shall be called by 
my name.' 1 " It shall be," replied Amergin. 

A little farther on, they met a second goddess, 
Fotla, the wife of Mac Cecht, who made the same 
request, and received the same answer from Amer- 

Last of all, at Uisnech, the centre of Ireland, 
they came upon the third of the queens, Eriu, the 
wife of Mac Grein6. "Welcome, warriors," she 
cried. " To you who have come from afar this 
island shall henceforth belong, and from the setting 
to the rising sun there is no better land. And your 
race will be the most perfect the world has ever 
seen." "These are fair words and a good prq- 

126 Mythology of the British Islands 

phecy," said Amergin. "It will be no thanks to 
you," broke in Donn, Mill's eldest son. " Whatever 
success we have we shall owe to our own strength/' 
"That which I prophesy has no concern with you," 
retorted the goddess, " and neither you nor your 
descendants will live to enjoy this island." Then, 
turning to Amergin, she, too, asked that Ireland 
might be called after her. "It shall be its principal 
name," Amergin promised. 

And so it has happened. Of the three ancient 
names of Ireland Banba, Fotla, and Eriu the 
last, in its genitive form of " Erinn ", is the one 
that has survived. 

The invaders came to Tara, then called Drum- 
cain, that is, the " Beautiful Hill ". Mac Cuill, 
Mac Cecht, and Mac Grein6 met them, with all 
the host of the Gaelic gods. As was usual, they 
held a parley. The people of the goddess Danu 
complained that they had been taken by surprise, 
and the Milesians admitted that to invade a country 
without having first warned its inhabitants was not 
strictly according to the courtesies of chivalrous 
warfare. The Tuatha D Danann proposed to 
the invaders that they should leave the island for 
three days, during which they themselves would 
decide whether to fight for their kingdom or to 
surrender it; but the Milesians did not care for 
this, for they knew that, as soon as they were out 
of the island, the Tuatha D6 Danann would oppose 
them with druidical enchantments, so that they 
would not be able to make a fresh landing. In 
the end, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Grein6 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 127 

offered to submit the matter to the arbitration of 
Amergin, the Milesians' own lawgiver, with the 
express stipulation that, if he gave an obviously 
partial judgment, he was to suffer death at their 
hands. Donn asked his druid if he were prepared 
to accept this very delicate duty. Amergin replied 
that he was, and at once delivered the first judg- 
ment pronounced by the Milesians in Ireland. 

" The men whom we found dwelling in the land, to them is 

possession due by right 
It is therefore your duty to set out to sea over nine green 

waves ; 
And if you shall be able to effect a landing again in spite 

of them, 
You are to engage them in battle, and I adjudge to you 

the land in which you found them living. 
I adjudge to you the land wherein you found them dwell- 
ing, by the right of battle. 
But although you may desire the land which these people 

possess, yet yours is the duty to show them justice. 
I forbid you from injustice to those you have found in 

the land, however you may desire to obtain it." 1 

This judgment was considered fair by both parties. 
The Milesians retired to their ships, and waited at 
a distance of nine waves' length from the land until 
the signal was given to attack, while the Tuatha 
D6 Danann, drawn up upon the beach, were ready 
with their druidical spells to oppose them. 

The signal was given, and the Milesians bent to 
their oars. But they had hardly started before they 
discovered that a strong wind was blowing straight 

* Translated by Professor Owen Connellan in Vol V of the Transactions oftht 
Qssianic Society. 

1 28 Mythology of the British Islands 

towards them from the shore, so that they could 
make no progress. At first they thought it might be 
a natural breeze, but Donn smelt magic in it. He 
sent a man to climb the mast of his ship, and see 
if the wind blew as strong at that height as it did 
at the level of the sea. The man returned, report- 
ing that the air was quite still "up aloft ". Evi- 
dently it was a druidical wind. But Amergin soon 
coped with it. Lifting up his voice, he invoked 
the Land of Ireland itself, a power higher than the 
gods it sheltered. 

" I invoke the land of Eriu! 
The shining, shining sea! 
The fertile, fertile hill! 
The wooded vale! 

The river abundant, abundant in water! 
The fishful, fishful lake!" 

In such strain runs the original incantation, one 
of those magic formulas whose power was held by 
ancient, and still is held by savage, races to reside 
in their exact consecrated wording rather than in 
their meaning. To us it sounds nonsense, and so 
no doubt it did to those who put the old Irish 
mythical traditions into literary shape; for a later 
version expands and explains it as follows: 1 

" I implore that we may regain the land of Erin, 
We who have come over the lofty waves, 

1 The original versions of this and the following charm are from De Jubainville: 
Cycle Mythologique lrlandais % the later from Professor Owen Connellan's trans- 
lations in Vol. V of the Transactions of the Ossianic Society. "Some of these 
poems", explains the Professor, "have been glossed by writers or commentators 
of the Middle Ages, without which it would be almost impossible now for any Irish 
scholar to interpret them ; and it is proper to remark that the translation accom- 
ponying them is more in accordance with this gloss than with the original text," 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 1 29 

This land whose mountains are great and extensive, 

Whose streams are clear and numerous, 

Whose woods abound with various fruit, 

Its rivers and waterfalls are large and beautiful, 

Its lakes are broad and widely spread, 

It abounds with fountains on elevated grounds! 

May we gain power and dominion over its tribes! 

May we have kings of our own ruling at Tara! 

May Tara be the regal residence of our many succeeding 

kings ! 

May the Milesians be the conquerors of its people ! 
May our ships anchor in its harbours ! 
May they trade along the coast of Erin! 
May Eremon be its first ruling monarch! 
May the descendants of Ir and Eber be mighty kings! 
I implore that we may regain the land of Erin, 

I implore!" 

The incantation proved effectual. The Land of 
Ireland was pleased to be propitious, and the 
druidical wind dropped down. 

But success was not quite so easy as they had 
hoped. Mananndn, son of the sea and lord of 
headlands, shook his magic mantle at them, and 
hurled a fresh tempest out over the deep. The 
galleys of the Milesians were tossed helplessly on 
the waves; many sank with their crews. Donn 
was among the lost, thus fulfilling Eriu's prophecy, 
and three other sons of Mil6 also perished. In the 
end, a broken remnant, after long beating about the 
coasts, came to shore at the mouth of the River 
Boyne. They landed; and Amergin, from the 
shore, invoked the aid of the sea as he had al- 
ready done that of the land. 

(B219) I 

130 Mythology of the British Islands 

"Sea full of fish! 
Fertile land ! 
Fish swarming up! 
Fish there! 
Under-wave bird! 
Great fish! 
Crab's hole! 
Fish swarming up! 
Sea full of fish!" 

which, being interpreted like the preceding charm, 
seems to have meant: 

M May the fishes of the sea crowd in shoals to the land for 
our use! 

May the waves of the sea drive forth to the shore abun- 
dance offish! 

May the salmon swim abundantly into our nets! 

May all kinds of fish come plentifully to us from the sea! 

May its flat-fishes also come in abundance! 

This poem I compose at the sea-shore that fishes may 
swim in shoals to our coast" 

Then, gathering their forces, they marched on the 
people of the goddess Danu. 

Two battles were fought, the first in Glenn Faisi, 
a valley of the Slieve Mish Mountains, south of 
Tralee, and the second at Tailtiu, now called Tell- 
town. In both, the gods were beaten. Their 
three kings were killed by the three surviving 
sons of Mite Mac Cuill by Eber, Mac Cecht by 
Eremon, and Mac Grein6 by the druid Amergin. 
Defeated and disheartened, they gave in, and, re- 
tiring beneath the earth, left the surface of the land 
to their conquerors, 

The Conquest of the Gods by Mortals 131 

From this day begins the history of Ireland 
according to the annalists. Mill's eldest son, Bonn, 
having perished, the kingdom fell by right to the 
second, Eremon. But Eber, the third son, backed 
by his followers, insisted upon a partition, and Ire- 
land was divided into two equal parts. At the end 
of a year, however, war broke out between the 
brothers; Eber was killed in battle, and Eremon 
took the sole rule. 



But though mortals had conquered gods upon a 
scale unparalleled in mythology, they had by no 
means entirely subdued them. Beaten in battle, 
the people of the goddess Danu had yet not lost 
their divine attributes, and could use them either 
to help or hurt " Great was the power of the 
Dagda", says a tract preserved in the Book of 
Leinster, "over the sons of Mil6, even after the 
conquest of Ireland; for his subjects destroyed their 
corn and milk, so that they must needs make a 
treaty of peace with the Dagda. Not until then, 
and thanks to his good-will, were they able to 
harvest corn and drink the milk of their cows/' 1 
The basis of this lost treaty seems to have been 
that the Tuatha D6 Danann, though driven from 
the soil, should receive homage and offerings from 
their successors. We are told in the verse dinn- 
senchus of Mag Slecht, that 

" Since the rule 

Of Eremon, the noble man of grace, 
There was worshipping of stones 
Until the coming of good Patrick of Macha ". 2 

1 DC JubainviUe: Cycle Mythologique Mandais, p. 269. 
* Sec chap, iv " The Religion of the Ancient Britons and Druidism ", 


The Gods in Exile 133 

Dispossessed of upper earth, the gods had, how- 
ever, to seek for new homes. A council was con- 
vened, but its members were divided between two 
opinions. One section of them chose to shake the 
dust of Ireland off its disinherited feet, and seek 
refuge in a paradise over-seas, situate in some un- 
known, and, except for favoured mortals, unknow- 
able island of the west, the counterpart in Gaelic 
myth of the British 

..." island-valley of Avilion ; 
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, 
Nor ever wind blows loudly ; but it lies 
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns 
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea " * 

a land of perpetual pleasure and feasting, described 
variously as the "Land of Promise " (Tir Tairngir6\ 
the " Plain of Happiness " (Mag Melt), the " Land 
of the Living" (Tir-nam-beo), the "Land of the 
Young " (Tir-nan-og), and " Breasal's Island" (Hy- 
BreasaiF). Celtic mythology is full of the beauties 
and wonders of this mystic country, and the tradition 
of it has never died out. Hy-Breasail has been set 
down on old maps as a reality again and again; 2 
some pioneers in the Spanish seas thought they 
had discovered it, and called the land they found 
"Brazil"; and it is still said, by lovers of old lore, 
that a patient watcher, after long gazing westward 
from the westernmost shores of Ireland or Scotland, 

i Tennyson: Idylls of the King: The Passing of Arthur. 

a See Wood-Martin: Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, Vol I, pp. 213-215. 

134 Mythology of the British Islands 

may sometimes be lucky enough to catch a glimpse 
against the sunset of its 

" summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea ". 

Of these divine emigrants the principal was 
Mananndn son of Ler. But, though he had cast 
in his lot beyond the seas, he did not cease to visit 
Ireland. An old Irish king, Bran, the son of Febal, 
met him, according to a seventh-century poem, as 
Bran journeyed to, and Mananndn from, the earthly 
paradise. Bran was in his boat, and Mananndn 
was driving a chariot over the tops of the waves, 
and he sang: 1 

" Bran deems it a marvellous beauty 
In his coracle across the clear sea: 
While to me in my chariot from afar 
It is a flowery plain on which he rides about. 

" What is a clear sea 
For the prowed skiff in which Bran is, 
That is a happy plain with profusion of flowers 
To me from the chariot of two wheels. 

" Bran sees 

The number of waves beating across the clear sea: 
I myself see in Mag Mon 2 
Red-headed flowers without fault. 

" Sea-horses glisten in summer 
As far as Bran has stretched his glance: 
Rivers pour forth a stream of honey 
In the land of Mananndn son of Lr. 

i The following verses are taken from Dr. Kuno Meyer's translation of the 
romance entitled The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal, published in Mr. Nutt's 
Grimm Library, Vol. IV. 8 The Plain of Sports. 

The Gods in Exile 135 

" The sheen of the main, on which thou art, 
The white hue of the sea, on which thou rowest about, 
Yellow and azure are spread out, 
It is land, and is not rough. 

** Speckled salmon leap from the womb 
Of the white sea, on which thou lookest: 
They are calves, they are coloured lambs 
With friendliness, without mutual slaughter. 

" Though but one chariot-rider is seen 
In Mag Mell 1 of many flowers, 
There are many steeds on its surface, 
Though them thou seest not. 

" Along the top of a wood has swum 
Thy coracle across ridges, 
There is a wood of beautiful fruit 
Under the prow of thy little skifif. 

" A wood with blossom and fruit, 
On which is the vine's veritable fragrance; 
A wood without decay, without defect, 
On which are leaves of a golden hue." 

And, after this singularly poetical enunciation of the 
philosophical and mystical doctrine that all things 
are, under their diverse forms, essentially the same, 
he goes on to describe to Bran the beauties and plea- 
sures of the Celtic Elysium. 

But there were others indeed, the most part of 
the gods who refused to expatriate themselves. For 
these residences had to be found, and the Dagda, 
their new king, proceeded to assign to each of those 
who stayed in Ireland a sidh. These stdhe were 
barrows, or hillocks, each being the door to an under- 

1 The Happy Plain. 

136 Mythology of the British Islands 

ground realm of inexhaustible splendour and delight, 
according to the somewhat primitive ideas of the 
Celts. A description is given of one which the 
Dagda kept for himself, and out of which his son 
Angus cheated him, which will serve as a fair ex- 
ample of all. There were apple-trees there always 
in fruit, and one pig alive and another ready roasted, 
and the supply of ale never failed. One may still 
visit in Ireland the sidhe of many of the gods, for 
the spots are known, and the traditions have not 
died out. To Lr was given Sidh Fionnachaidh^, 
now known as the " Hill of the White Field ", on the 
top of Slieve Fuad, near Newtown Hamilton, in 
County Armagh, Bodb Derg received a sidh called 
by his own name, Sidh Bodb*> just to the south of 
Portumna, in Gal way. Mider was given the sidh of 
Bri Leith, now called Slieve Golry, near Ardagh, in 
County Longford. Ogma's sidh was called Airceltrai\ 
to Lugh was assigned Rodrubdn ; Mananndn's son, 
Ilbhreach, received Sidh Eas Aedha Ruaidh*, now 
the Mound of Mullachshee, near Ballyshannon, 
in Donegal; Fionnbharr* had Sidh Meadha, now 
" Knockma ", about five miles west of Tuam, where, 
as present king of the fairies, he is said to live to- 
day; while the abodes of other gods of lesser fame 
are also recorded. For himself the Dagda retained 
two, both near the River Boyne, in Meath, the best 
of them being the famous Brugh-na- Boyne. None 
of the members of the Tuatha D6 Danann were left 
unprovided for, save one. 

i Pronounced Shec Finneha. * Pronounced Shee Bove. 

9 Pronounced Shee Assaroe. * Pronounced Finnvar. 

The Gods in Exile 137 

It was from this time that the Gaelic gods re- 
ceived the name by which the peasantry know them 
to-day Aes Sidhe, the " People of the Hills ", or, 
more shortly, the Sfdhe. Every god, or fairy, is a 
Fer-Sidhe 1 , a " Man of the Hill"; and every goddess 
a Bean-Sidhe, a " Woman of the Hill", the banshee 
of popular legend 2 

The most famous of such fairy hills are about five 
miles from Drogheda. 3 They are still connected 
with the names of the Tuatha D6 Danann, though 
they are now not called their dwelling-places, but 
their tombs. On the northern bank of the Boyne 
stand seventeen barrows, three of which Knowth, 
Dowth, and New Grange are of great size. The 
last named, largest, and best preserved, is over 
300 feet in diameter, and 70 feet high, while its top 
makes a platform 120 feet across. It has been ex- 
plored, and Roman coins, gold torques, copper pins, 
and iron rings and knives have been found in it; 
but what else it may have once contained will never 
be known, for, like Knowth and Dowth, it was 
thoroughly ransacked by Danish spoilers in the 
ninth century. It is entered by a square doorway, 
the rims of which are elaborately ornamented with 
a kind of spiral pattern. This entrance leads to a 
stone passage, more than 60 feet long, which gradu- 
ally widens and rises, until it opens into a chamber 
with a conical dome 20 feet high. On each side of 
this central chamber is a recess, with a shallow oval 

i Pronounced Far-shee. 

1 O'Curry : Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, Appendix 
p. 505, * See Fergusson : Rude Stone Monuments , pp. 200-213. 

138 Mythology of the British Islands 

stone basin in it. The huge slabs of which the 
whole is built are decorated upon both the outer 
and the inner faces with the same spiral pattern as 
the doorway. 

The origin of these astonishing prehistoric monu- 
ments is unknown, but they are generally attributed 
to the race that inhabited Ireland before the Celts. 
Gazing at marvellous New Grange, one might very 
well echo the words of the old Irish poet Mac Nia, 
in the Book of Ballymote: 

" Behold the Stdh before your eyes, 
It is manifest to you that it is a king's mansion, 
Which was built by the firm Dagda, 
It was a wonder, a court, an admirable hill." 1 

It is not, however, with New Grange, or even 
with Knowth or Dowth, that the Dagda's name is 
now associated. It is a smaller barrow, nearer to 
the Boyne, which is known as the " Tomb of the 
Dagda ". It has never been opened, and Dr. Jeimes 
Fergusson, the author of Rude Stone Monuments, 
who holds the Tuatha D Danann to have been a 
real people, thinks that "the bones and armour of 
the great Dagda may still be found in his honoured 
grave ". 2 Other Celtic scholars might not be so 
sanguine, though verses as old as the eleventh 
century assert that the Tuatha D6 Danann used 
the brughs for burial. It was about this period that 
the mythology of Ireland was being rewoven into 
spurious history. The poem, which is called the 
" Chronicles of the Tombs ", not only mentions the 

i O'Curry: MS. Materials, p. 505. 

* Fergusson : Rude Stone Monuments > p. 209. 

The Gods in Exile 139 

14 Monument of the Dagda" and the " Monument 
of the Morrfgu ", but also records the last resting- 
places of Ogma, Etain, Cairpr6, Lugh, Boann, and 

We have for the present, however, to consider 
Angus in a far less sepulchral light. He is, indeed, 
very much alive in the story to be related. The 
" Son of the Young " was absent when the distri- 
bution of the sidhe was made. When he returned, 
he came to his father, the Dagda, and demanded 
one. The Dagda pointed out to him that they had 
all been given away. Angus protested, but what 
could be done? By fair means, evidently nothing; 
but by craft, a great deal. The wily Angus ap- 
peared to reconcile himself to fate, and only begged 
his father to allow him to stay at the sidh of Brugh- 
na-Boyne (New Grange) for a day and a night 
The Dagda agreed to this, no doubt congratulating 
himself on having got out of the difficulty so easily. 
But when he came to Angus to remind him that the 
time was up, Angus refused to go. He had been 
granted, he claimed, day and night, and it is of days 
and nights that time and eternity are composed; 
therefore there was no limit to his tenure of the 
sidh. The logic does not seem very convincing to 
our modem minds, but the Dagda is said to have 
been satisfied with it. He abandoned the best of 
his two palaces to his son, who took peaceable pos- 
session of it. Thus it got a second name, that of 
the Sidh or Brugh of the " Son of the Young ".* 

The Dagda does not, after this, play much active 

i This story is contained in the Book of Leinster. 

140 Mythology of the British Islands 

part in the history of the people of the goddess 
Danu. We next hear of a council of gods to elect 
a fresh ruler. There were five candidates for the 
vacant throne Bodb the Red, Mider, Ilbhreach 1 
son of Mananndn, Ler, and Angus himself, though 
the last-named, we are told, had little real desire to 
rule, as he preferred a life of freedom to the dig- 
nities of kingship. The Tuatha D6 Danann went 
into consultation, and the result of their deliberation 
was that their choice fell upon Bodb the Red, for 
three reasons firstly, for his own sake; secondly, 
for his father, the Dagda's sake; and thirdly, be- 
cause he was the Dagda's eldest son. The other 
competitors approved this choice, except two. 
Mider refused to give hostages, as was the custom, 
to Bodb Derg, and fled with his followers to "a 
desert country round Mount Leinster", in County 
Carlow, while Ler retired in great anger to Sidh 
Fionnachaidh, declining to recognize or obey the 
new king. 

Why L6r and Mider should have so taken the 
matter to heart is difficult to understand, unless it 
was because they were both among the oldest of the 
gods. The indifference of Angus is easier to explain. 
He was the Gaelic Eros, and was busy living up 
to his character. At this time, the object of his love 
was a maiden who had visited him one night in a 
dream, only to vanish when he put out his arms to 
embrace her. All the next day, we are told, Angus 
took no food. Upon the following night, the un- 
substantial lady again appeared, and played and 

1 Pronounced llbrec. 

The Gods in Exile 141 

sang to him. That following day, he also fasted. 
So things went on for a year, while Angus pined 
and wasted for love. At last the physicians of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann guessed his complaint, and told 
him how fatal it might be to him. Angus asked 
that his mother Boann might be sent for, and, when 
she came, he told her his trouble, and implored her 
help. She went to the Dagda and begged him, 
if he did not wish to see his son die of unrequited 
love, a disease that all Diancecht's medicine and 
Goibniu's magic could not heal, to find the dream- 
maiden. The Dagda could do nothing himself, but 
he sent to Bodb the Red, and the new king of the 
gods sent in turn to the lesser deities of Ireland, 
ordering all of them to search for her. For a year 
she could not be found, but at last the disconsolate 
lover received a message, charging him to come and 
see if he could recognize the lady of his dreams. 
Angus came, and knew her at once, even though 
she was surrounded by thrice fifty attendant nymphs. 
Her name was Caer, and she was the daughter of 
Etal Ambuel, who had a sidh at Uaman, in Con- 
naught. Bodb the Red demanded her for Angus 
in marriage, but her father declared that he had no 
control over her. She was a swan-maiden, he said ; 
and every year, as soon as summer was over, she 
went with her companions to a lake called " Dragon- 
Mouth ", and there all of them became swans. But, 
refusing to be thus put off, Angus waited in patience 
until the day of the magical change, and then went 
down to the shore of the lake. There, surrounded 
by thrice fifty swans, he saw Caer, herself a swan 

142 Mythology of the British Islands 

surpassing all the rest in beauty and whiteness. He 
called to her, proclaiming his passion and his name, 
and she promised to be his bride, if he too would 
become a swan. He agreed, and with a word she 
changed him into swan-shape, and thus they flew 
side by side to Angus's sidh, where they retook the 
human form, and, no doubt, lived happily as long as 
could be expected of such changeable immortals as 
pagan deities. 1 

Meanwhile, the people of the goddess Danu were 
justly incensed against both Ler and Mider. Bodb 
the Red made a yearly war upon Mider in his stdh, 
and many of the divine race were killed on either 
side. But against Ler, the new king of the gods 
refused to move, for there had been a great affection 
between them. Many times Bodb Derg tried to 
regain Ler's friendship by presents and compliments, 
but for a long time without success. 

At last Ler's wife died, to the sea-god's great 
sorrow. When Bodb the Red heard the news, he 
sent a messenger to Ler, offering him one of his 
own foster -daughters, Aebh 2 , Aeife 8 , and Ailbhe 4 , 
the children of Ailioll of Arran. Ler, touched by 
this, came to visit Bodb the Red at his sfdh, and 
chose Aebh for his wife. " She is the eldest, so she 
must be the noblest of them/' he said. They were 
married, and a great feast made, and Lr took her 
back with him to Sfdh Fionnachaidh. 

Aebh bore four children to Lr. The eldest was 

i This story, called the Dream of Angus , will be found translated into English 
by Dr. Edward MUller in Vol. III. of the Revue Celtique, from an eighteenth- 
century MS. in the British Museum. 

* Pronounced Awe. 3 Pronounced Aiva. 4 Pronounced A/va. 

The Gods in Exile 143 

a daughter called Finola, the second was a son called 
Aed; the two others were twin boys called Fiachra 
and Conn, but in giving birth to those Aebh died. 

Bodb the Red then offered Ler another of his 
foster-children, and he chose the second, Aeife. 
Every year Ler and Aeife and the four children 
used to go to Mananndn's " Feast of Age", which 
was held at each of the stdhe in turn. The four 
children grew up to be great favourites among the 
people of the goddess Danu. 

But Aeife was childless, and she became jealous 
of Ler's children ; for she feared that he would love 
them more than he did her. She brooded over this 
until she began, first to hope for, and then to plot 
their deaths. She tried to persuade her servants to 
murder them, but they would not. So she took the 
four children to Lake Darvra (now called Lough 
Derravargh in West Meath), and sent them into the 
water to bathe. Then she made an incantation over 
them, and touched them, each in turn, with a druidical 
wand, and changed them into swans. 

But, though she had magic enough to alter their 
shapes, she had not the power to take away their 
human speech and minds. Finola turned, and 
threatened her with the anger of Ler and of Bodb 
the Red when they came to hear of it. She, how- 
ever, hardened her heart, and refused to undo what 
she had done. The children of Ler, finding their 
case a hopeless one, asked her how long she in- 
tended to keep them in that condition. 

" You would be easier in mind/ 1 she said, "if you 
had not asked the question; but \ will tell you. 

144 Mythology of the British Islands 

You shall be three hundred years here, on Lake 
Darvra; and three hundred years upon the Sea of 
Moyle 1 , which is between Erin and Alba; and 
three hundred years more at Irros Domnann 2 and 
the Isle of Glora in Erris 8 . Yet you shall have two 
consolations in your troubles; you shall keep your 
human minds, and yet suffer no grief at knowing 
that you have been changed into swans, and you 
shall be able to sing the softest and sweetest songs 
that were ever heard in the world/' 

Then Aeife went away and left them. She re- 
turned to Ler, and told him that the children had 
fallen by accident into Lake Darvra, and were 

But Ler was not satisfied that she spoke the truth, 
and went in haste to the lake, to see if he could find 
traces of them. He saw four swans close to the 
shore, and heard them talking to one another with 
human voices. As he approached, they came out 
of the water to meet him. They told him what 
Aeife had done, and begged him to change them 
back into their own shapes. But Ler's magic was 
not so powerful as his wife's, and he could not. 

Nor even could Bodb the Red to whom Lr 
went for help, for all that he was king of the gods. 
What Aeife had done could not be undone. But 
she could be punished for it! Bodb ordered his 
foster-daughter to appear before him, and, when she 
came, he put an oath on her to tell him truly " what 
shape of all others, on the earth, or above the earth, 

1 Now called " North Channel" 9 The Peninsula of Erris, in Mayo. 

3 A small island off Benmullet. 


From the Drawing by J. H. Bacon, A.R.A. 

The Gods in Exile 145 

or beneath the earth, she most abhorred, and into 
which she most dreaded to be transformed". Aeife 
was obliged to answer that she most feared to be- 
come a demon of the air. So Bodb the Red struck 
her with his wand, and she fled from them, a shriek- 
ing demon. 

All the Tuatha D6 Danann went to Lake Darvra 
to visit the four swans. The Milesians heard of it, 
and also went ; for it was not till long after this that 
gods and mortals ceased to associate. The visit 
became a yearly feast. But, at the end of three 
hundred years, the children of Ler were compelled 
to leave Lake Darvra, and go to the Sea of Moyle, 
to fulfil the second period of their exile. 

They bade farewell to gods and men, and went. 
And, for fear lest they might be hurt by anyone, the 
Milesians made it law in Ireland that no man should 
harm a swan, from that time forth for ever. 

The children of Ler suffered much from tempest 
and cold on the stormy Sea of Moyle, and they were 
very lonely. Once only during that long three 
hundred years did they see any of their friends. 
An embassy of the Tuatha D6 Danann, led by two 
sons of Bodb the Red, came to look for them, and 
told them all that had happened in Erin during their 

At last that long penance came to an end, and 
they went to Irros Domnann and Innis Glora for 
their third stage. And while it was wearily drag- 
ging through, Saint Patrick came to Ireland, and 
put an end to the power of the gods for ever. They 
had been banned and banished when the children of 

(B219) K 

146 Mythology of the British Islands 

Lr found themselves free to return to their old 
home. Sfdh Fionnechaidh was empty and deserted, 
for Lr had been killed by Caoilt6, the cousin of 
Finn mac Coul. 1 

So, after long, vain searching for their lost relatives, 
they gave up hope, and returned to the Isle of Glora. 
They had a friend there, the Lonely Crane of Innis- 
kea 2 , which has lived upon that island ever since the 
beginning of the world, and will be still sitting there 
on the day of judgment. They saw no one else 
until, one day, a man came to the island. He told 
them that he was Saint Caemhoc 3 , and that he had 
heard their story. He brought them to his church, 
and preached the new faith to them, and they believed 
on Christ, and consented to be baptised This broke 
the pagan spell, and, as soon as the holy water was 
sprinkled over them, they returned to human shape. 
But they were very old and bowed three aged men 
and an ancient woman. They did not live long after 
this, and Saint Caemhoc, who had baptised them, 
buried them all together in one grave. 4 

But, in telling this story, we have leaped nine 
hundred years a great space in the history even 
of gods. We must retrace our steps, if not quite 
to the days of Eremon and Eber, sons of Mil6, and 
first kings of Ireland, at any rate to the beginning 
of the Christian era. 

1 See chap. XIV " Finn and the Fenians". 

2 An island off the coast of Mayo. Its lonely crane was one of the " Wonders 
of Ireland", and is still an object of folk-belief. 8 Pronounced Kemoc. 

4 This famous story of the Fate of the Children of Ler is not found in any MS. 
earlier than the beginning of the seventeenth century. A translation of it has been 
published by Eugene O'Curry in Atlantis , Vol, IV, from which the present abridg- 
ment is made. 

The Gods in Exile 147 

At this time Eochaid Airem was high king of 
Ireland, and reigned at Tara; while, under him, as 
vassal monarchs, Conchobar mac Nessa ruled over 
the Red Branch Champions of Ulster; Curoi son of 
Daire 1 , was king of Munster; Mesgegra was king 
of Leinster; and Ailell, with his famous queen, Medb, 
governed Connaught. 

Shortly before, among the gods, Angus Son of 
the Young, had stolen away Etain, the wife of Mider. 
He kept her imprisoned in a bower of glass, which 
he carried everywhere with him, never allowing her 
to leave it, for fear Mider might recapture hen The 
Gaelic Pluto, however, found out where she was, 
and was laying plans to rescue her, when a rival of 
Etain's herself decoyed Angus away from before the 
pleasant prison-house, and set his captive free. But, 
instead of returning her to Mider, she changed the 
luckless goddess into a fly, and threw her into the 
air, where she was tossed about in great wretched- 
ness at the mercy of every wind. 

At the end of seven years, a gust blew her on to 
the roof of the house of Etair, one of the vassals of 
Conchobar, who was celebrating a feast. The un- 
happy fly, who was Etain, was blown down the 
chimney into the room below, and fell, exhausted, 
into a golden cup full of beer, which the wife of the 
master of the house was just going to drink. And 
the woman drank Etain with the beer. 

But, of course, this was not the end of her for 
the gods cannot really die, but only the beginning 
of a new life. Etain was reborn as the daughter of 

1 Pronounced Dara. 

148 Mythology of the British Islands 

Etair's wife, no one knowing that she was not of 
mortal lineage. She grew up to be the most beauti- 
ful woman in Ireland. 

When she was twenty years old, her fame reached 
the high king, who sent messengers to see if she 
was as fair as men reported They saw her, and 
returned to the king full of her praises. So Eochaid 
himself went to pay her a visit. He chose her to be 
his queen, and gave her a splendid dowry. 

It was not till then that Mider heard of her. He 
came to her in the shape of a young man, beautifully 
dressed, and told her who she really was, and how 
she had been his wife among the people of the 
goddess Danu. He begged her to leave the king, 
and come with him to his sidh at Bri Leith. But 
Etain refused with scorn. 

" Do you think, " she said, " that I would give up 
the high king of Ireland for a person whose name 
and kindred I do not know, except from his own 

The god retired, baffled for the time. But one 
day, as King Eochaid sat in his hall, a stranger 
entered. He was dressed in a purple tunic, his hair 
was like gold, and his eyes shone like candles. 

The king welcomed him. 

" But who are you? M he asked; "for I do not 
know you. n 

" Yet I have known you a long time," returned the 

"Then what is your name?" 

"Not a very famous one. I am Mider of Bri 
Leith/ 1 

The Gods in Exile 149 

11 Why have you come here?" 

" To challenge you to a game of chess." 

" I am a good chess-player/ 1 replied the king, who 
was reputed to be the best in Ireland. 

" I think I can beat you," answered Mider. 

" But the chess-board is in the queen's room, and 
she is asleep," objected Eochaid. 

" It does not matter," replied Mider. " I have 
brought a board with me which can be in no way 
worse than yours." 

He showed it to the king, who admitted that the 
boast was true. The chess-board was made of 
silver set in precious stones, and the pieces were 
of gold. 

11 Play!" said Mider to the king. 

" I never play without a wager," replied Eochaid. 

14 What shall be the stake?" asked Mider. 

" I do not care," replied Eochaid. 

"Good!" returned Mider. " Let it be that the 
loser pays whatever the winner demands." 

" That is a wager fit for a king," said Eochaid. 

They played, and Mider lost. The stake that 
Eochaid claimed from him was that Mider and his 
subjects should make a road through Ireland. 
Eochaid watched the road being made, and noticed 
how Mider's followers yoked their oxen, not by the 
horns, as the Gaels did, but at the shoulders, which 
was better. He adopted the practice, and thus got 
his nickname, Airem, that is, "The Ploughman". 

After a year, Mider returned and challenged the 
king again, the terms to be the same as before. 
Eochaid agreed with joy; but, this time, he lost. 

150 Mythology of the British Islands 

" I could have beaten you before, if I had wished/ 1 
said Mider, "and now the stake I demand is Etain, 
your queen." 

The astonished king, who could not for shame 
go back upon his word, asked for a year's delay. 
Mider agreed to return upon that day year to claim 
Etain. Eochaid consulted with his warriors, and 
they decided to keep watch through the whole of 
the day fixed by Mider, and let no one pass in or 
out of the royal palace till sunset. For Eochaid 
held that if the fairy king could not get Etain upon 
that one day, his promise would be no longer bind- 
ing on him. 

So, when the day came, they barred the door and 
guarded it, but suddenly they saw Mider among 
them in the hall. He stood beside Etain, and sang 
this song to her, setting out the pleasures of the 
homes of the gods under the enchanted hills. 

" O fair lady ! will you come with me 
To a wonderful country which is mine, 
Where the people's hair is of golden hue, 
And their bodies the colour of virgin snow? 

" There no grief or care is known ; 
White are their teeth, black their eyelashes ; 
Delight of the eye is the rank of our hosts, 
With the hue of the fox -glove on every cheek. 

" Crimson are the flowers of every mead, 
Gracefully speckled as the blackbird's egg; 
Though beautiful to see be the plains of Inisfail 1 
They are but commons compared to our great plains. 

1 A poetical name for Ireland. 

The Gods in Exile 151 

" Though intoxicating to you be the ale-drink of Inisfail, 
More intoxicating the ales of the great country ; 
The only land to praise is the land of which I speak, 
Where no one ever dies of decrepit age. 

" Soft sweet streams traverse the land ; 
The choicest of mead and of wine ; 
Beautiful people without any blemish; 
Love without sin, without wickedness. 

" We can see the people upon all sides, 
But by no one can we be seen ; 
The cloud of Adam's transgression it is 
That prevents them from seeing us. 

" O lady, should you come to my brave land, 
It is golden hair that will be on your head ; 
Fresh pork, beer, new milk, and ale, 
You there with me shall have, O fair lady!" 1 

Then Mider greeted Eochaid, and told him that 
he had come to take away Etain, according to the 
king's wager. And, while the king and his warriors 
looked on helplessly, he placed one arm round the 
now willing woman, and they both vanished. This 
broke the spell that hung over everyone in the hall; 
they rushed to the door, but all they could see were 
two swans flying away. 

The king would not, however, yield to the god. 
He sent to every part of Ireland for news of Etain, 
but his messengers all came back without having 
been able to find her. At last, a druid named 
Daldn learned, by means of ogams carved upon 
wands of yew, that she was hidden under Mider's 

1 Translated by O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish , Lecture 
ix. p. 193, 193. 

152 Mythology of the British Islands 

sidh of Bri Leith. So Eochaid marched there with 
an army, and began to dig deep into the abode of 
the gods of which the " fairy hill" was the portal. 
Mider, as terrified as was the Greek god Hades 
when it seemed likely that the earth would be rent 
open, 1 and his domains laid bare to the sight, sent 
out fifty fairy maidens to Eochaid, every one of 
them having the appearance of Etain. But the 
king would only be content with the real Etain, so 
that Mider, to save his sidh, was at last obliged to 
give her up. And she lived with the King of Ire- 
land after that until the death of both of them. 

But Mider never forgave the insult He bided 
his time for three generations, until Eochaid and 
Etain had a male descendant. For they had no 
son, but only a daughter called Etain, like her 
mother, and this second Etain had a daughter called 
Messbuachallo, who had a son called Conaird, sur- 
named "the Great". Mider and the gods wove 
the web of fate round Conaire, so that he and all his 
men died violent deaths. 2 

J Iliad, Book XX. 

8 The story of Mider 's revenge and Conaire"s death is told in the romance 
Bruidhen Dd Derga, "The Destruction of Da Derga's Fort", translated by Dr. 
Whitley Stokes, Eugene O' Curry and Professor Zimmer from the original text. 



With Eber and Eremon, sons of Mil6, and 
conquerors of the gods, begins a fresh series of 
characters in Gaelic tradition the early " Milesian " 
kings of Ireland. Though monkish chroniclers 
have striven to find history in the legends handed 
down concerning them, they are none the less 
almost as mythical as the Tuatha D6 Danann. The 
first of them who has the least appearance of reality 
is Tigernmas, who is recorded to have reigned a 
hundred years after the coming of the Milesians. 
He seems to have been what is sometimes called 
a " Culture-king ", bearing much the same kind of 
relation to Ireland as Theseus bore to Athens or 
Minos to Crete. During his reign, nine new lakes 
and three new rivers broke forth from beneath the 
earth to give their waters to Erin. Under his 
auspices, gold was first smelted, ornaments of gold 
and silver were first made, and clothes first dyed. 
He is said to have perished mysteriously 1 with 

111 There came 

Tigernmas, the prince of Tara yonder, 

On Hallowe'en with many hosts, 

A cause of grief to them was the deed. 

" Dead were the men 
Of Banba's host, without happy strength, 

154 Mythology of the British Islands 

three-fourths of the men of Erin while worshipping 
Cromm Cruaich on the field of Mag Slecht In him 
Mr. Nutt sees, no doubt rightly, the great mythical 
king who, in almost all national histories, closes 
the strictly mythological age, and inaugurates a new 
era of less obviously divine, if hardly less apocryphal 
characters. 1 

In spite, however, of the worship of the Tuatha 
D^ Danann instituted by Eremon, we find the early 
kings and heroes of Ireland walking very familiarly 
with their gods. Eochaid Airem, high king of 
Ireland, was apparently reckoned a perfectly fit 
suitor for the goddess Etain, and proved a far from 
unsuccessful rival of Mider, the Gaelic Pluto. 2 And 
adventures of love or war were carried quite as 
cheerfully among the stdh dwellers by Eochaid's 
contemporaries Conchobar son of Nessa, King 
of Ulster, Curoi son of Daire, King of Munster, 
Mesgegra, King of Leinster, and Ailell and Medb 8 , 
King and Queen of Connaught. 

All these figures of the second Gaelic cycle (that 
of the heroes of Ulster, and especially of their 
great champion, Cuchulainn) lived, according to 
Irish tradition, at about the beginning of the 

Around Tigernmas, the destructive man in the North, 

From the worship of Cromm Cruaich 't was no luck for them. 

" For I have learnt, 
Except one-fourth of the keen Gaels 
Not a man alive lasting the snare ! 
Escaped without death in his mouth. " 
Dr. Kuno Meyer's translation of the Dinnsenchus of Mag Sleckt. 

1 Nutt: Voyage of Bran, p. 164. 

2 See chap, xi "The Gods in Exile". 

1 Pronounced Maive. 

The Irish Iliad 155 

Christian era Conchobar, indeed, is said to nave 
expired in a fit of rage on hearing of the death 
of Christ. 1 

But this is a very transparent monkish interpola- 
tion into the original story. A quite different view 
is taken by most modern scholars, who would see 
gods and not men in all the legendary characters 
of the Celtic heroic cycles. Upon such a subject, 
however, one may legitimately take sides. Were 
King Conchobar and his Ultonian champions, Finn 
and his Fenians, Arthur and his Knights once living 
men round whom the attributes of gods have 
gathered, or were they ancient deities renamed and 
stripped of some of their divinity to make them 
more akin to their human worshippers? History 
or mythology? A mingling, perhaps, of both. 
Cuchulainn 2 may have been the name of a real 
Gaelic warrior, however suspiciously he may now 
resemble the sun-god, who is said to have been his 
father. King Conchobar may have been the real 
chief of a tribe of Irish Celts before he became an 
adumbration of the Gaelic sky-god. It is the same 
problem that confronts us in dealing with the heroic 
legends of Greece and Rome. Were Achilles, 
Agamemnon, Odysseus, Paris, /Eneas gods, demi- 
gods, or men? Let us call them all alike whether 
they be Greek or Trojan heroes, Red Branch 
Champions, or followers of the Gaelic Finn or the 
British Arthur demi-gods. Even so, they stand 

1 The story of the Tragical Death of King Conchobar, translated by Eugene 
O'Curry from the Book of Leinster, will be found in the ^appendix to his MS. 
Materials of Irish History, and (more accessible) in Miss Hull's Cuchullin Saga. 

9 The name is best pronounced Cuhoolin or Cuchullin (ch as in German), 

1 56 Mythology of the British Islands 

definitely apart from the older gods who were 
greater than they were. 

We are stretching no point in calling them demi- 
gods, for they were god-descended. 1 Cuchulainn, 
the greatest hero of the Ulster cycle, was doubly 
so; for on his mother's side he was the grandson 
of the Dagda, while Lugh of the Long Hand is 
said to have been his father. His mother, Dechtir6, 
daughter of Maga, the daughter of Angus " Son of 
the Young ", was half-sister to King Conchobar, 
and all the other principal heroes were of hardly 
less lofty descent. It is small wonder that they are 
described in ancient manuscripts 2 as terrestrial gods 
and goddesses. 

" Terrestrial " they may have been in form, but 
their acts were superhuman. Indeed, compared 
with the more modest exploits of the heroes of the 
" Iliad ", they were those of giants. Where Greek 
warriors slew their tens, these Ultonians despatched 
their hundreds. They came home after such ex- 
ploits so heated that their cold baths boiled over. 
When they sat down to meat, they devoured whole 
oxen, and drank their mead from vats. With one 
stroke of their favourite swords they beheaded hills 
for sport. The gods themselves hardly did more, 
and it is easy to understand that in those old days 
not only might the sons of gods look upon the 
daughters of men and find them fair, but immortal 

1 The descent of the principal Red Branch Heroes from the Tuatha D6 Dans .in 
is given in a table in Miss Hull's Introduction to her Cuchullin Saga. 

2 Conchobar is called a terrestrial god of the Ultonians in the Book of the Dun 
Cow, and Dechtire* is termed a goddess in the Book of Leinster. 

The Irish Iliad 157 

women also need not be too proud to form passing 
alliances with mortal men. 

Some of the older deities seem to have already 
passed out of memory at the time of the compilation 
of the Ulster cycle. At any rate, they make no 
appearance in it. Dead Nuada rests in the grianan 
of Aileach; Ogma lies low in sidh Airceltrai; while 
the Dagda, thrust into the background by his son 
Angus, mixes himself very little in the affairs of 
Erin. 1 But the Morrfgti is no less eager in en- 
couraging human or semi-divine heroes to war than 
she was when she revived the fainting spirits of the 
folk of the goddess Danu at the Battle of Moytura. 
The gods who appear most often in the cycle of 
the Red Branch of Ulster are the same that have 
lived on throughout with the most persistent vitality. 
Lugh the Long-handed, Angus of the Brugh, Mider, 
Bodb the Red, and Mananndn son of Ler, are the 
principal deities that move in the background of the 
stage where the chief parts are now played by 
mortals. But, to make up for the loss of some of 
the greater divine figures, the ranks of the gods are 
being recruited from below. All manner of inferior 
divinities claim to be members of the tribe of the 
goddess Danu. The goblins and sprites and demons 
of the air who shrieked around battles are described 
collectively as Tuatha D6 Danann. 2 

As for the Fomors, they have lost their distinc- 
tive names, though they are still recognized as 
dwellers beneath the deep, who at times raid upon 

i He is last heard of as chief cook to Con*W the Great, a mythical king of 
Ireland. I |n the Book of Leinster. 

1 58 Mythology of the British Islands 

the coast, and do battle with the heroes over whom 
Conchobar ruled at Emain Macha. 

This seat of his government, the traditionary site 
of which is still marked by an extensive prehistoric 
entrenchment called Navan Fort 1 , near Armagh, 
was the centre of an Ulster that stretched south- 
wards as far as the Boyne, and round its ruler 
gathered such a galaxy of warriors as Ireland had 
never seen before, or will again. They called them- 
selves the " Champions of the Red Branch"; there 
was not one of them who was not a hero ; but they 
are all dwarfed by one splendid figure Cuchulainn, 
whose name means " Culann's Hound ". Mr. 
Alfred Nutt calls him "the Irish Achilles" 2 , while 
Professor Rhys would rather see in him a Heracles 
of the Gaels. 3 Like Achilles, he was the chosen 
hero of his people, invincible in battle, and yet 
" at once to early death and sorrows doomed be- 
yond the lot of man ", while, like Heracles, his life 
was a series of wonderful exploits and labours. It 
matters little enough; for the lives of all such 
mythical heroes must be of necessity somewhat 

If Achilles and Heracles were, as some think, 
personifications of the sun, Cuchulainn is not less 
so. Most of his attributes, as the old stories record 
them, are obviously solar symbols. He seemed 
generally small and insignificant, yet, when he was 

i For a description of Navan Fort see a paper by M. de Jubainville in the Revue 
C.eltique, Vol. XVI. 

8 Cuchulainn, the Irish Achilles. By Alfred Nutt. Popular Studies in Myth- 
ology, Romance, and Folklore, No. 8. 

3 See a series of interesting parallels between Cuchulainn and Heracles in Studies 
in the Arthurian Legend % chap, ix and X. 

The Irish Iliad 159 

at his full strength, no one could look him in the 
face without blinking, while the heat of his con- 
stitution melted snow for thirty feet all round him. 
He turned red and hissed as he dipped his bod) 
into its bath the sea. Terrible was his trans- 
formation when sorely oppressed by his enemies, 
as the sun is by mist, storm, or eclipse. At such 
times " among the aerial clouds over his head were 
visible the virulent pouring showers and sparks of 
ruddy fire which the seething of his savage wrath 
caused to mount up above him. His hair became 
tangled about his head, as it had been branches of 
a red thorn-bush stuffed into a strongly-fenced gap. 
. . . Taller, thicker, more rigid, longer than mast 
of a great ship was the perpendicular jet of dusky 
blood which out of his scalp's very central point 
shot upwards and then was scattered to the four 
cardinal points; whereby was formed a magic mist 
of gloom resembling the smoky pall that drapes 
a regal dwelling, what time a king at nightfall of a 
winter's day draws near to it" 1 

So marvellous a being 2 was, of course, of mar- 
vellous birth. His mother, Dechtir6, was on the 
point of being married to an Ulster chieftain called 
Sualtam, and was sitting at the wedding- feast, when 
a may-fly flew into her cup of wine and was un- 
wittingly swallowed by her. That same afternoon 

1 The Tdin B6 Chuailgnt. Translated by Standish Hayes O'Grady. 

3 The Irish romances relating to Cuchulainn and his cycle, nearly a hundred in 
number, need hardly be referred to severally in this chapter. Of many of the 
tales, too, there exist several slightly-varying versions. Many of them have been 
translated by different scholars. The reader desiring a more complete survey of 
the Cuchulainn legend is referred to Miss Hull's Cuchullin Saga or to Lady 
Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthtmne. 

160 Mythology of the British Islands 

she fell into a deep sleep, and in her dream the 
sun-god Lugh appeared to her, and told her that 
it was he whom she had swallowed, and bore within 
hen He ordered her and her fifty attendant maidens 
to come with him at once, and he put upon them 
the shapes of birds, so that they were not seen to 
go. Nothing was heard of them again. But one 
day, months later, a flock of beautiful birds appeared 
before Emain Macha, and drew out its warriors in 
their chariots to hunt them. 

They followed the birds till nightfall, when they 
found themselves at the Brugh on the Boyne, where 
the great gods had their homes. As they looked 
everywhere for shelter, they suddenly saw a splen- 
did palace. A tall and handsome man, richly 
dressed, came out and welcomed them and led 
them in. Within the hall were a beautiful and 
noble-faced woman and fifty maidens, and on the 
tables were the richest meats and wines, and every- 
thing fit for the needs of warriors. So they rested 
there the night, and, during the night, they heard 
the cry of a new-born child. The next morning, 
the man told them who he was, and that the woman 
was Conchobar's half-sister Dechtir6, and he ordered 
them to take the child, and bring it up among the 
warriors of Ulster. So they brought him back, 
together with his mother and the maidens, and 
Dechtir6 married Sualtam, and all the chiefs, cham- 
pions, druids, poets, and lawgivers of Ulster vied 
with one another in bringing up the mysterious infant 

At first they called him Setanta; and this is how 
he came to change his name. While still a child, 

The Irish Iliad 161 

he was the strongest of the boys of Emain Macha, 
and the champion in their sports. One day he was 
playing hurley single-handed against all the others, 
and beating them, when Conchobar the King rode 
by with his nobles on the way to a banquet given 
by Culann, the chief smith of the Ultonians. Con- 
chobar called to the boy, inviting him to go with 
them, and he replied that, when the game was 
finished, he would follow. As soon as the Ulster 
champions were in Culann's hall, the smith asked 
the king's leave to unloose his terrible watch-dog, 
which was as strong and fierce as a hundred hounds; 
and Conchobar, forgetting that the boy was to 
follow them, gave his permission. Immediately 
the hound saw Setanta coming, it rushed at him, 
open-mouthed. But the boy flung his play ing-ball 
into its mouth, and then, seizing it by the hind-legs, 
dashed it against a rock till he had killed it. 

The smith Culann was very angry at the death 
of his dog; for there was no other hound in the 
world like him for guarding a house and flocks. 
So Setanta promised to find and train up another 
one, not less good, for Culann, and, until it was 
trained, to guard the smith's house as though he 
were a dog himself. This is why he was called 
Cuchulainn, that is, " Culann's Hound"; and Cath- 
bad the Druid prophesied that the time would 
come when the name would be in every man's 

Not long after this, Cuchulainn overheard Cath- 
bad giving druidical instruction, and one of his 
pupils asking him what that day would be pro 

(B219) J, 

1 62 Mythology of the British Islands 

pitious for. Cathbad replied that, if any young 
man first took arms on that day, his name would 
be greater than that of any other hero's, but his 
life would be short. At once, the boy went to King 
Conchobar, and demanded arms and a chariot. Con- 
chobar asked him who had put such a thought into 
his head; and he answered that it was Cathbad the 
Druid. So Conchobar gave him arms and armour, 
and sent him out with a charioteer. That evening, 
Cuchulainn brought back the heads of three cham- 
pions who had killed many of the warriors of Ulster. 
He was then only seven years old. 

The women of Ulster so loved Cuchulainn after 
this that the warriors grew jealous, and insisted that 
a wife should be found for him. But Cuchulainn 
was very hard to please. He would have only one, 
Emer 1 , the daughter of Forgall the Wily, the best 
maiden in Ireland for the six gifts the gift of 
beauty, the gift of voice, the gift of sweet speech, 
the gift of needlework, the gift of wisdom, and the 
gift of chastity. So he went to woo her, but she 
laughed at him for a boy. Then Cuchulainn swore 
by the gods of his people that he would make his 
name known wherever the deeds of heroes were 
spoken of, and Emer promised to marry him if he 
could take her from her warlike kindred. 

When Forgall, her father, came to know of this 
betrothal, he devised a plan to put an end to it 
He went to visit King Conchobar at Emain Macha. 
There he pretended to have heard of Cuchulainn 
for the first time, and he saw him do all his feats. 

\ Projiounced 

The Irish Iliad 163 

He said, loud enough to be overheard by all, that if 
so promising a youth dared to go to the Island of 
Scathach the Amazon, in the east of Alba, 1 and 
learn all her warrior-craft, no living man would be 
able to stand before him. It was hard to reach 
Scathach's Isle, and still harder to return from it, 
and Forgall felt certain that, if Cuchulainn went, 
he would get his death there. 

Of course, nothing would now satisfy Cuchulainn but 
going. His two friends, Laegaire the Battle- winner 
and Conall the Victorious, said that they would go 
with him. But, before they had gone far, they lost 
heart and turned back. Cuchulainn went on alone, 
crossing the Plain of 111- Luck, where men's feet 
stuck fast, while sharp grasses sprang up and cut 
them, and through the Perilous Glens, full of devour- 
ing wild beasts, until he came to the Bridge of the 
Cliff, which rose on end, till it stood straight up like 
a ship's mast, as soon as anyone put foot on it. 
Three times Cuchulainn tried to cross it, and thrice 
he failed. Then anger came into his heart, and a 
magic halo shone round his head, and he did his 
famous feat of the "hero's salmon leap", and landed, 
in one jump, on the middle of the bridge, and then 
slid down it as it rose up on end. 

Scathach was in the diin y with her two sons. 
Cuchulainn went to her, and put his sword to her 
breast, and threatened to kill her if she would not 
teach him all her own skill in arms. So he became 
her pupil, and she taught him all her war-craft In 
return, Cuchulainn helped her against a rival queen 

1 Usually identified, however, with the Isle of Skye. 

164 Mythology of the British Islands 

of the Amazons, called Aoife 1 . He conquered Aoife, 
and compelled her to make peace with Scathach. 

Then he returned to Ireland, and went in a 
scythed chariot to Forgall's palace. He leaped 
over its triple walls, and slew everyone who came 
near him. Forgall met his death in trying to 
escape Cuchulainn's rage. He found Emer, and 
placed her in his chariot, and drove away; and, 
every time that Forgall's warriors came up to them, 
he turned, and slew a hundred, and put the rest 
to flight. He reached Emain Macha in safety, and 
he and Emer were married there. 

And so great, after this, were the fame of Cu- 
chulainn's prowess and Emer's beauty that the men 
and women of Ulster yielded them precedence 
him among the warriors and her among the women 
in every feast and banquet at Emain Macha. 

But all that Cuchulainn had done up to this time 
was as nothing to the deeds he did in the great war 
which all the rest of Ireland, headed by Ailill and 
Medb, King and Queen of Connaught, made upon 
Ulster, to get the Brown Bull of Cualgne. 2 This 
Bull was one of two, of fairy descent. They had 
originally been the swineherds of two of the gods, 
Bodb, King of the Sfdhe of Munster, and Ochall 
Ochne, King of the Sfdhe of Connaught. As 
swineherds they were in perpetual rivalry; then, 
the better to carry on their quarrel, they changed 
themselves into two ravens, and fought for a year; 

i Pronounced Eefa. 

9 A literal translation by Miss Winifred Faraday of the Tdin Bo Chuailgnt from 
the Book of the Dun Cow and the Yellow Book of Lecan has been published by 
Mr. Nutt Grimm Library, No. 16. 


r J3 





The Irish Iliad 165 

next they turned into water - monsters, which tore 
one another for a year in the Suir and a year in 
the Shannon; then they became human again and 
fought as champions; and ended by changing into 
eels. One of these eels went into the River Cruind, 
in Cualgne 1 , in Ulster, where it was swallowed by 
a cow belonging to Daire of Cualgne, and the other 
into the spring of Uaran Garad, in Connaught, 
where it passed into the belly of a cow of Queen 
Medb's. Thus were born those two famous beasts, 
the Brown Bull of Ulster and the White-horned 
Bull of Connaught. 

Now the White-horned was of such proud mind 
that he scorned to belong to a woman, and he went 
out of Medb's herds into those of her husband 
Ailill. So that when Ailill and Medb one day, in 
their idleness, counted up their possessions, to set 
them off one against the other, although they were 
equal in every other thing, in jewels and clothes 
and household vessels, in sheep and horses and 
swine and cattle, Medb had no one bull that was 
worthy to be set beside AiliU's White-horned. Re- 
fusing to be less in anything than her husband, 
the proud queen sent heralds, with gifts and compli- 
ments, to Daire, asking him to lend her the Brown 
Bull for a year. Daire would have done so gladly 
had not one of Medb's messengers been heard boast- 
ing in his cups that, if Daire had not lent the Brown 
Bull of his own free-will, Medb would have taken 
it. This was reported to Daire, who at once swore 
that she should never have it. Medb's messenger 

i Pronounced tooley. 

1 66 Mythology of the British Islands 

returned; and the Queen of Connaught, furious at 
his refusal, vowed that she would take it by force. 

She assembled the armies of all the rest of Ireland 
to go against Ulster, and made Fergus son of Roy, 
an Ulster champion who had quarrelled with King 
Conchobar, its leader. They expected to have an 
easy victory, for the warriors of Ulster were at that 
time lying under a magic weakness which fell upon 
them for many days in each year, as the result of a 
curse laid upon them, long before, by a goddess who 
had been insulted by one of Conchobar's ancestors. 
Medb called up a prophetess of her people to fore- 
tell victory. " How do you see our hosts? 11 asked 
the queen of the seeress. " I see crimson on them; 
I see red," she replied. " But the warriors of Ulster 
are lying in their sickness. Nay, how do you see 
our men?" "I see them all crimson; I see them 
all red," she repeated. And then she added to the 
astonished queen, who had expected a quite different 
foretelling: " For I see a small man doing deeds of 
arms, though there are many wounds on his smooth 
skin; the hero-light shines round his head, and there 
is victory on his forehead; he is richly clothed, and 
young and beautiful and modest, but he is a dragon 
in battle. His appearance and his valour are those 
of Cuchulainn of Muirthemne; who that * Culann's 
hound 1 from Muirthemne may be, I do not know; 
but I know this, that all our army will be reddened 
by him. He is setting out for battle; he will hew 
down your hosts; the slaughter he shall make will 
be long remembered; there will be many women 
crying over the bodies mangled by the Hound of 

The Irish Iliad 167 

the Forge whom I see before me now." 1 For Cu- 
chulainn was, for some reason unknown to us, the 
only man in Ulster who was not subject to the 
magic weakness, and therefore it fell upon him to 
defend Ulster single-handed against the whole of 
Medb's army. 

In spite of the injury done him by King Concho- 
bar, Fergus still kept a love for his own country. 
He had not the heart to march upon the Ultonians 
without first secretly sending a messenger to warn 
them. So that, though all the other champions of 
the Red Branch were helpless, Cuchulainn was 
watching the marches when the army came. 

Now begins the story of the aristeia of the Gaelic 
hero. It is, after the manner of epics, the record of 
a series of single combats, in each of which Cuchu- 
lainn slays his adversary. Man after man comes 
against him, and not one goes back. In the in- 
tervals between these duels, Cuchulainn harasses 
the army with his sling, slaying a hundred men a 
day. He kills Medb's pet dog, bird, and squirrel, 
and creates such terror that no one dares to stir out 
of the camp. Medb herself has a narrow escape; 
for one of her serving - women, who puts on her 
mistress's golden head-dress, is killed by a stone 
flung from Cuchulainn's sling. 

The great queen determines to see with her own 
eyes this marvellous hero who is holding all her 
warriors at bay. She sends an envoy, asking him 
to come and parley with her. Cuchulainn agrees, 
and, at the meeting, Medb is amazed at his boyish 

1 This prophecy (here much abridged) is, in the original, in verse. 

1 68 Mythology of the British Islands 

look. She finds it hard to believe that it is this 
beardless stripling of seventeen who is killing her 
champions, until the whole army seems as though 
it were melting away. She offers him her own 
friendship and great honours and possessions in 
Connaught if he will forsake Conchobar. He re- 
fuses ; but she offers it again and again. At last 
Cuchulainn indignantly declares that the next man 
who comes with such a message will do so at his 
peril. One bargain, however, he will make. He is 
willing to fight one of the men of Ireland every day, 
and, while the duel lasts, the main army may march 
on; but, as soon as Cuchulainn has killed his man, 
it must halt until the next day. Medb agrees to 
this, thinking it better to lose one man a day than a 

Medb makes the same offer to every famous war- 
rior, to induce him to go against Cuchulainn. The 
reward for the head of the champion will be the 
hand of her daughter, Findabair 1 . In spite of this, 
not one of the aspirants to the princess can stand 
before Cuchulainn. All perish; and Findabair, 
when she finds out how she is being promised to a 
fresh suitor every day, dies of shame. But, while 
Cuchulainn is engaged in these combats, Medb sends 
men who scour Ulster for the brown bull, and find 
him, and drive him, with fifty heifers, into her camp. 

Meanwhile the ^Es Sidhe, the fairy god-clan, are 
watching the half-divine, half-mortal hero, amazed 
at his achievements. His exploits kindle love in the 
fierce heart of the Morngu, the great war-goddess. 

1 Finnavir. 

The Irish Iliad 169 

Cuchulainn is awakened from sleep by a terrible 
shout from the north. He orders his driver, Laeg, 
to yoke the horses to his chariot, so that he may find 
out who raised it. They go in the direction from 
which the sound had come, and meet with a woman 
in a chariot drawn by a red horse. She has red 
eyebrows, and a red dress, and a long, red cloak, 
and she carries a great, gray spear. He asks her 
who she is, and she tells him that she is a king's 
daughter, and that she has fallen in love with him 
through hearing of his exploits. Cuchulainn says 
that he has other things to think of than love. She 
replies that she has been giving him her help in his 
battles, and will still do so; and Cuchulainn answers 
that he does not need any woman's help. " Then/ 1 
says she, " if you will not have my love and help, 
you shall have my hatred and enmity. When you 
are fighting with a warrior as good as yourself, 
I will come against you in various shapes and hinder 
you, so that he shall have the advantage/' Cuchu- 
lainn draws his sword, but all he sees is a hoodie 
crow sitting on a branch. He knows from this that 
the red woman in the chariot was the great queen 
of the gods. 

The next day, a warrior named Loch went to 
meet Cuchulainn. At first he refused to fight one 
who was beardless; so Cuchulainn smeared his chin 
with blackberry juice, until it looked as though he 
had a beard. While Cuchulainn was fighting Loch, 
the Morrfgii came against him three times first as 
a heifer which tried to overthrow him, and next as 
an eel which got beneath his feet as he stood in 

1 70 Mythology of the British Islands 

running water, and then as a wolf which seized hold 
of his right arm. But Cuchulainn broke the heifer's 
leg, and trampled upon the eel, and put out one of 
the wolfs eyes, though, every one of these three 
times, Loch wounded him. In the end, Cuchulainn 
slew Loch with his invincible spear, the gae bolg*> 
made of a sea-monster's bones. The MorHgii came 
back to Cuchulainn, disguised as an old woman, to 
have her wounds healed by him, for no one could 
cure them but he who had made them. She became 
his friend after this, and helped him. 

But the fighting was so continuous that Cuchu- 
lainn got no sleep, except just for a while, from 
time to time, when he might rest a little, with his 
head on his hand and his hand on his spear and his 
spear on his knee. So that his father, Lugh the Long- 
handed, took pity on him and came to him in the 
semblance of a tall, handsome man in a green cloak 
and a gold-embroidered silk shirt, and carrying a 
black shield and a five-pronged spear. He put him 
into a sleep of three days and three nights, and, 
while he rested, he laid druiclical herbs on to all his 
wounds, so that, in the end, he rose up again com- 
pletely healed and as strong as at the very beginning 
of the war. While he was asleep, the boy-troop of 
Emain Macha, Cuchulainn's old companions, came 
and fought instead of him, and slew three times their 
own number, but were all killed. 

It was at this time that Medb asked Fergus to 
go and fight with Cuchulainn. Fergus answered 
that he would never fight against his own foster- 

i " Bellows-dart", apparently a kind of harpoon. It had thirty barb*. 

The Irish Iliad 171 

son. Medb asked him again and again, and at last 
he went, but without his famous sword. " Fergus, 
my guardian/ 1 said Cuchulainn, " it is not safe for 
you to come out against me without your sword." 
" If I had the sword," replied Fergus, " I would not 
use it on you." Then Fergus asked Cuchulainn, 
for the sake of all he had done for him in his boy- 
hood, to pretend to fight with him, and then give 
way before him and run away. Cuchulainn answered 
that he was very loth to be seen running from any 
man. But Fergus promised Cuchulainn that, if 
Cuchulainn would run away from Fergus then, 
Fergus would run away from Cuchulainn at some 
future time, whenever Cuchulainn wished. Cuchu- 
lainn agreed to this, for he knew that it would be 
for the profit of Ulster. So they fought a little, 
and then Cuchulainn turned and fled in the sight 
of all Medb's army. Fergus went back; and Medb 
could not reproach him any more. 

But she cast about to find some other way of 
vanquishing Cuchulainn. The agreement made had 
been that only one man a day should be sent against 
him. But now Medb sent the wizard Calatin with 
his twenty-seven sons and his grandson all at once, 
for she said " they are really only one, for they are 
all from Calatin's body". They never missed a 
throw with their poisoned spears, and every man 
they hit died, either on the spot or within the week. 
When Fergus heard of this, he was in great grief, 
and he sent a man called Fiacha, an exile, like him- 
self, from Ulster, to watch the fight and report how 
it went. Now Fiacha did not mean to join in it, 

172 Mythology of the British Islands 

but when he saw Cuchulainn assailed by twenty-nine 
at a time, and overpowered, he could not restrain 
himself. So he drew his sword and helped Cuchu- 
lainn, and, between them, they killed Calatin and his 
whole family. 

As a last resource, now, Medb sent for Ferdiad, 
who was the great champion of the Iberian " Men 
of Domnu", who had thrown in their lot with Medb 
in the war for the Brown Bull. Ferdiad had been 
a companion and fellow-pupil of Cuchulainn with 
Scathach, and he did not wish to fight with him. 
But Medb told him that, if he refused, her satirists 
should make such lampoons on him that he would 
die of shame, and his name would be a reproach 
for ever. She also offered him great rewards and 
honours, and bound herself in six sureties to keep 
her promises. At last, reluctantly, he went. 

Cuchulainn saw him coming, and went out to 
welcome him; but Ferdiad said that he had not 
come as a friend, but to fight. Now Cuchulainn 
had been Ferdiad's junior and serving-boy in Sca- 
thach's Island, and he begged him by the memory 
of those old times to go back ; but Ferdiad said he 
could not. They fought all day, and neither had 
gained any advantage by sunset. So they kissed 
one another, and each went back to his camp. Fer- 
diad sent half his food and drink to Cuchulainn, 
and Cuchulainn sent half his healing herbs and 
medicines to Ferdiad, and their horses were put 
in the same stable, and their charioteers slept by 
the same fire. And so it happened on the second 
day. But at the end of the third day they parted 


The Irish Iliad 173 

gloomily, knowing that on the morrow one ot them 
must fall ; and their horses were not put in the same 
stall that night, neither did their charioteers sleep at 
the same fire. On the fourth day, Cuchulainn suc- 
ceeded in killing Ferdiad, by casting the gae bolg 
at him from underneath. But when he saw that 
he was dying, the battle-fury passed away, and he 
took his old companion up in his arms, and carried 
him across the river on whose banks they had 
fought, so that he might be with the men of Ulster 
in his death, and not with the men of Ireland. And 
he wept over him, and said: " It was all a game and 
a sport until Ferdiad came; Oh, Ferdiad! your death 
will hang over me like a cloud for ever. Yesterday 
he was greater than a mountain; to-day he is less 
than a shadow/' 

By this time, Cuchulainn was so covered with 
wounds that he could not bear his clothes to touch 
his skin, but had to hold them off with hazel-sticks, 
and fill the spaces in between with grass. There 
was not a place on him the size of a needle-point 
that had not a wound on it, except his left hand, 
which held the shield. 

But Sualtam, Cuchulainn's reputed father, had 
learned what a sore plight his son was in. " Do I 
hear the heaven bursting, or the sea running away, 
or the earth breaking open/ 1 he cried, "or is it my 
son's groaning that I hear?" He came to look for 
him, and found him covered with wounds and blood. 
But Cuchulainn would not let his father either weep 
for him or try to avenge him. "Go, rather," he 
said to him, " to Emain Macha, and tell Conchobar 

174 Mythology of the British Islands 

that I can no longer defend Ulster against all the 
four provinces of Erin without help. Tell him that 
there is no part of my body on which there is not 
a wound, and that, if he wishes to save his kingdom, 
he must make no delay/ 1 

Sualtam mounted Cuchulainn's war-horse, the 
' ' Gray of Battle", and galloped to Emain Macha. 
Three times he shouted: " Men are being killed, 
women carried off, and cattle lifted in Ulster ". 
Twice he met with no response. The third time, 
Cathbad the Druid roused himself from his lethargy 
to denounce the man who was disturbing the king's 
sleep. In his indignation Sualtam turned away so 
sharply that the gray steed reared, and struck its 
rider's shield against his neck with such force that 
he was decapitated. The startled horse then turned 
back into Conchobar's stronghold, and dashed 
through it, Sualtam 's severed head continuing to 
cry out: " Men are being killed, women carried off, 
and cattle lifted in Ulster." Such a portent was 
enough to rouse the most drowsy. Conchobar, 
himself again, swore a great oath. " The heavens 
are over us, the earth is beneath us, and the sea 
circles us round, and, unless the heavens fall, with 
all their stars, or the earth gives way beneath us, 
or the sea bursts over the land, I will restore every 
cow to her stable, and every woman to her home." 

He sent messengers to rally Ulster, and they 
gathered, and marched on the men of Erin. And 
then was fought such a battle as had never been 
before in Ireland. First one side, then the other, 
gave way and rallied again, until Cuchulainn heard 

The Irish Iliad 175 

the noise of the fight, and rose up, in spite of all his 
wounds, and came to it. 

He called out to Fergus, reminding him how he 
had bound himself with an oath to run from him 
when called upon to do so. So Fergus ran before 
Cuchulainn, and when Medb's army saw their leader 
running they broke and fled like one man. 

But the Brown Bull of Cualgne went with the 
army into Connaught, and there he met AiliU's 
bull, the White-horned. And he fought the White- 
horned, and tore him limb from limb, and carried 
off pieces of him on his horns, dropping the loins 
at Athlone and the liver at Trim. Then he went 
back to Cualgne, and turned mad, killing all who 
crossed his path, until his heart burst with bellowing, 
and he fell dead. 

This was the end of the great war called Tdin B6 
Chuailgnt, the " Driving of the Cattle of Cooley ". 

Yet, wondrous as it was, it was not the most mar- 
vellous of Cuchulainn's exploits. Like all the solar 
gods and heroes of Celtic myth, he carried his con- 
quests into the dark region of Hades. On this 
occasion the mysterious realm is an island called 
Dun Scaith, that is, the " Shadowy Town ", and 
though its king is not mentioned by name, it seems 
likely that he was Mider, and that Dun Scaith is 
another name for the Isle of Falga, or Man. The 
story, as a poem 1 relates it, is curiously suggestive 
of a raid which the powers of light, and especially 
the sun-gods, are represented as having made upon 

It it contained in tht Book of th Duji Covr story called the "Phantom 

176 Mythology of the British Islands 

Hades in kindred British myth. 1 The same loath- 
some combatants issue out of the underworld to 
repel its assailants. There was a pit in the centre 
of DiSn Scaith, out of which swarmed a vast throng 
of serpents. No sooner had Cuchulainn and the 
heroes of Ulster disposed of these than " a house full 
of toads " was loosed upon them " sharp, beaked 
monsters" (says the poem), which caught them by 
the noses, and these were in turn replaced by fierce 
dragons. Yet the heroes prevailed and carried off 
the spoil three cows of magic qualities and a 
marvellous cauldron in which was always found an 
inexhaustible supply of meat, with treasure of silver 
and gold to boot. They started back for Ireland in 
a coracle, the three cows being towed behind, with 
the treasure in bags around their necks. But the 
gods of Hades raised a storm which wrecked their 
ship, and they had to swim home. Here Cuchulainn's 
more than mortal prowess came in useful. We are 
told that he floated nine men to shore on each of his 
hands, and thirty on his head, while eight more, 
clinging to his sides, used him as a kind of life-belt 
After this, came the tragedy of Cuchulainn's 
career, the unhappy duel in which he killed his only 
son, not knowing who he was. The story is one 
common, apparently, to the Aryan nations, for it is 
found not only in the Gaelic, but in the Teutonic 
and Persian mythic traditions. It will be remem- 
bered that Cuchulainn defeated a rival of Scathach 
the Amazon, named Aoife, and compelled her to 
render submission. The hero had also a son by 

1 Sec chap. XX' 1 The Victories of Light over Darknesj ". 

The Irish Iliad 177 

Aoife, and he asked that the boy should be called 
Conlaoch 1 , and that, when he was of age to travel, 
he should be sent to Ireland to find his father. 
Aoife promised this, but, a little later, news came to 
her that Cuchulainn had married Emer. Mad with 
jealousy, she determined to make the son avenge 
her slight upon the father. She taught him the 
craft of arms until there was no more that he could 
learn, and sent him to Ireland. Before he started, 
she laid three geasa? upon him. The first was th;>* 
he was not to turn back, the second that he was 
never to refuse a challenge, and the third that he 
was never to tell his name. 

He arrived at Dundealgan 3 , Cuchulainn's home, 
and the warrior Conall came down to meet him, 
and asked him his name and lineage. He refused 
to tell them, and this led to a duel, in which Conall 
was disarmed and humiliated. Cuchulainn next 
approached him, asked the same question, and re- 
ceived the same answer. " Yet if I was not under 
a command/' said Conlaoch, who did not know he 
was speaking to his father, " there is no man in the 
world to whom I would sooner tell it than to your- 
self, for I love your face." Even this compliment 
could not stave off the fight, for Cuchulainn felt it 
his duty to punish the insolence of this stripling who 
refused to declare who he was. The fight was a 
fierce one, and the invincible Cuchulainn found him- 
self so pressed that the " hero-light " shone round 

i Pronounced Conla. 

8 A kind of mystic prohibition or taboo ; singular, gtis. 

3 Now called Dundalk. 

1 78 Mythology of the British Islands 

him and transfigured his face. When Conlaoch saw 
this, he knew who his antagonist must be, and pur- 
posely flung his spear slantways that it might not 
hit his father. But before Cuchulainn understood, 
he had thrown the terrible gae bolg. Conlaoch, 
dying, declared his name; and so passionate was Cu- 
chulainn's grief that the men of Ulster were afraid 
that in his madness he might wreak his wrath upon 
them. They, therefore, called upon Cathbad the 
Druid to put him under a glamour. Cathbad turned 
the waves of the sea into the appearance of armed 
men, and Cuchulainn smote them with his sword 
until he fell prone from weariness. 

It would take too long to relate all the other 
adventures and exploits of Cuchulainn. Enough 
has been done if any reader of this chapter should 
be persuaded by it to study the wonderful saga of 
ancient Ireland for himself. We must pass on 
quickly to its tragical close the hero's death. 

Medb, Queen of Connaught, had never forgiven 
him for keeping back her army from raiding Ulster, 
and for slaying so many of her friends and allies. 
So she went secretly to all those whose relations 
Cuchulainn had killed (and they were many), and 
stirred them up to revenge. 

Besides this, she had sent the three daughters of 
Calatin the Wizard, born after their father's death 
at the hands of Cuchulainn, to Alba and to Babylon 
to learn witchcraft. When they came back they 
were mistresses of every kind of sorcery, and could 
make the illusion of battle with an incantation* 

And, lest she might fail even then, she waited 

The Irish Iliad 179 

with patience until the Ultonians were again in their 
magic weakness, and there was no one to help 
Cuchulainn but himself, 

Lugaid 1 , son of the Curoi, King of Munster 
whom Cuchulainn had killed for the sake of Blath- 
nat, Mider's daughter, gathered the Munster men; 
Ere, whose father had also fallen at Cuchulainn's 
hands, called the men of Meath; the King of 
Leinster brought out his army; and, with Ailill 
and Medb and all Connaught, they marched into 
Ulster again, and began to ravage it. 

Conchobar called his warriors and druids into 
council, to see if they could find some means of 
putting off war until they were ready to meet it. 
He did not wish Cuchulainn to go out single- 
handed a second time against all the rest of Ireland, 
for he knew that, if the champion perished, the 
prosperity of Ulster would fall with him for ever. 
So, when Cuchulainn came to Emain Macha, the 
king set all the ladies, singers, and poets of the 
court to keep his thoughts from war until the men 
of Ulster had recovered from their weakness. 

But while they sat feasting and talking in the 
11 sunny house ", the three daughters of Calatin came 
fluttering down on to the lawn before it, and began 
gathering grass and thistles and puff-balls and 
withered leaves, and turning them into the semblance 
of armies. And, by the same magic, they caused 
shouts and shrieks and trumpet-blasts and the 
clattering of arms to be heard all round the house, 
as though a battle were being fought. 

1 Pronounced Lcwy* 

180 Mythology of the British Islands 

Cuchulainn leaped up, red with shame to think 
that fighting should be going on without his help, 
and seized his sword. But Cathbad's son caught 
him by the arms. All the druids explained to him 
that what he saw was only an enchantment raised 
by the children of Calatin to draw him out to his 
death. But it was as much as all of them could do 
to keep him quiet while he saw the phantom armies 
and heard the magic sounds. 

So they decided that it would be well to remove 
Cuchulainn from Emain Machato Glean-na-Bodkar l y 
the " Deaf Valley ", until all the enchantments o( 
the daughters of Calatin were spent. It was the 
quality of this valley that, if all the men of Ireland 
were to shout round it at once, no one within it 
would hear a sound. 

But the daughters of Calatin went there too, and 
again they took thistles and puff-balls and withered 
leaves, and put on them the appearance of armed 
men; so that there seemed to be no place outside 
the whole valley that was not filled with shouting 
battalions. And they made the illusion of fires all 
around and the sound of women shrieking. Every- 
one who heard that outcry was frightened at it, not 
only the men and women, but even the dogs. 

Though the women and the druids shouted back 
with all the strength of their voices, to drown it 
they could not keep Cuchulainn from hearing. 
44 Alas!" he cried, " I hear the men of Ireland shout- 
ing as they ravage the province. My triumph is at 
an end; my fame is gone; Ulster lies low for ever." 

1 Pronounced Glen na Mower. 

The Irish Iliad 181 

"Let it pass/' said Cathbad; "it is only the idle 
magic noises made by the children of Calatin, who 
want to draw you out, to put an end to you. Stay 
here with us, and take no heed of them." 

Cuchulainn obeyed; and the daughters of Calatin 
went on for a long time filling the air with noises of 
battle. But they grew tired of it at last; for they 
saw that the druids and women had outwitted them. 

They did not succeed until one of them took 
the form of a leman of Cuchulainn's, and came to 
him, crying out that Dundealgan was burnt, and 
Muirthemne ruined, and the whole province of 
Ulster ravaged. Then, at last, he was deceived, 
and took his arms and armour, and, in spite of all 
that was said to him, he ordered Laeg to yoke his 

Signs and portents now began to gather as 
thickly round the doomed hero as they did round 
the wooers in the hall of Odysseus. His famous 
war-horse, the Gray of Macha, refused to be bridled, 
and shed large tears of blood. His mother, Dech- 
tir6, brought him a goblet full of wine, and thrice 
the wine turned into blood as he put it to his lips. 
At the first ford he crossed, he saw a maiden of the 
sidhe washing clothes and armour, and she told him 
that it was the clothes and arms of Cuchulainn, who 
was soon to be dead. He met three ancient hags 
cooking a hound on spits of rowan, and they invited 
him to partake of it. He refused, for it was taboo 
to him to eat the flesh of his namesake; but they 
shamed him into doing so by telling him that he ate 
at rich men's tables and refused the hospitality of 

1 82 Mythology of the British Islands 

the poor. The forbidden meat paralysed half his 
body. Then he saw his enemies coming up against 
him in their chariots. 

Cuchulainn had three spears, of which it was 
prophesied that each should kill a king. Three 
druids were charged in turn to ask for these spears ; 
for it was not thought lucky to refuse anything to 
a druid. The first one came up to where Cuchu- 
lainn was making the plain red with slaughter. 
"Give me one of those spears, " he said, "or I will 
lampoon you." "Take it," replied Cuchulainn, "I 
have never yet been lampooned for refusing anyone 
a gift." And he threw the spear at the druid, and 
killed him. But Lugaid, son of Curoi, got the 
spear, and killed Laeg with it. Laeg was the king 
of all chariot-drivers. 

" Give me one of your spears, Cuchulainn," said 
the second druid. " I need it myself," he replied. 
" I will lampoon the province of Ulster because of 
you, if you refuse." " I am not obliged to give 
more than one gift in a day," said Cuchulainn, "but 
Ulster shall never be lampooned because of me." 
He threw the spear at the druid, and it went 
through his head. But Ere, King of Leinster, got 
it, and mortally wounded the Gray of Macha, the 
king of all horses. 

"Give me your spear," said the third druid. " I 
have paid all that is due from myself and Ulster," 
replied Cuchulainn. " I will satirize your kindred 
if you do not," said the druid. " I shall never go 
home, but I will be the cause of no lampoons there," 
answered Cuchulainn, and he threw the spear at the 

Th* Irish Iliad 183 

asker, and killed him. But Lugaid threw it back, 
and it went through Cuchulainn's body, and wounded 
him to the death. 

Then, in his agony, he greatly desired to drink. 
He asked his enemies to let him go to a lake that 
lay close by, and quench his thirst, and then come 
back again. " If I cannot come back to you, come 
to fetch me," he said; and they let him go. 

Cuchulainn drank, and bathed, and came out of 
the water. But he found that he could not walk; 
so he called to his enemies to come to him. There 
was a pillar-stone near; and he bound himself to it 
with his belt, so that he might die standing up, and 
not lying down. His dying horse, the Gray of 
Macha, came back to fight for him, and killed fifty 
men with his teeth and thirty with each of his hoofs. 
But the " hero-light" had died out of Cuchulainn's 
face, leaving it as pale as "a one-night's snow", and 
a crow came and perched upon his shoulder. 

" Truly it was not upon that pillar that birds used 
to sit," said Ere. 

Now that they were certain that Cuchulainn was 
dead, they all gathered round him, and Lugaid cut 
off his head to take it to Medb. But vengeance 
came quickly, for Conall the Victorious was in 
pursuit, and he made a terrible slaughter of Cuchu- 
lainn's enemies. 

Thus perished the great hero of the Gaels in the 
twenty-seventh year of his age. And with hirn fell 
the prosperity of Emain Macha and of the Red 
Branch of Ulster. 



The heroic age of Ireland was not, however, the 
mere orgy of battle which one might assume from 
the previous chapter. It had room for its Helen 
and its Andromache as well as for its Achilles and 
its Hector. Its champions could find time to make 
love as well as war. More than this, the legends of 
their courtships often have a romantic beauty found 
in no other early literature. The women have free 
scope of choice, and claim the respect of their 
wooers. Indeed, it has been pointed out that the 
mythical stories of the Celts must have created the 
chivalrous romances of mediaeval Europe. In them, 
and in no other previous literature, do we find such 
knightly treatment of an enemy as we see in the 
story of Cuchulainn and Ferdiad, or such poetic 
delicacy towards a woman as is displayed in the 
wooing of Emer. 1 The talk between man and 
maid when Cuchulainn comes in his chariot to pay 
his suit to Emer at Forgall's dtin might, save for its 
strangeness, almost have come out of some quite 
modern romance. 

1 The romance of the Wooing of Emer, a fragment of which is contained in the 
Book of the Dun Cow, has been translated by Dr. Kuno Meyer, and published by 
him in the Arckaological Review, Vol. I, 1888. Miss Hull has included thii 
translation in her Cuchullin Saga. Another version of it from a Bodleian MS., 
translated by the same scholar, will be found in the Revue Critique, Vol. XL 


Some Gaelic Love-Stories 185 

44 Emer lifted up her lovely face and recognised 
Cuchulainn, and she said, ' May God make smooth 
the path before you!' 

"'And you/ he said, 'may you be safe from 
every harm. 1 " 

She asks him whence he has come, and he tells 
her. Then he questions her about herself. 

"I am a Tara of women/' she replies, "the 
whitest of maidens, one who is gazed at but who 
gazes not back, a rush too far to be reached, an 
untrodden way. ... I was brought up in ancient 
virtues, in lawful behaviour, in the keeping of 
chastity, in rank equal to a queen, in stateliness of 
form, so that to me is attributed every noble grace 
among the hosts of Erin's women." In more boast- 
ful strain Cuchulainn tells of his own birth and 
deeds. Not like the son of a peasant had he been 
reared at Conchobar's court, but among heroes and 
champions, jesters and druids. When he is weakest 
his strength is that of twenty; alone he will fight 
against forty; a hundred men would feel safe under 
his protection. One can imagine Emer's smile as 
she listens to these braggings. " Truly/' she says, 
14 they are goodly feats for a tender boy, but they 
are not yet those of chariot-chiefs." Very modern, 
too, is the way in which she coyly reminds her 
wooer that she has an elder sister as yet unwed. 
But, when at last he drives her to the point, she 
answers him with gentle, but proud decision. Not 
by words, but by deeds is she to be won. The man 
she will marry must have his name mentioned 
wherever the exploits of heroes are spoken of. 

1 86 Mythology of the British Islands 

" Even as thou hast commanded, so shall all by 
me be done," said Cuchulainn. 

"And by me your offer is accepted, it is taken, 
it is granted/' replied Emer. 

It seems a pity that, after so fine a wooing, 
Cuchulainn could not have kept faithful to the bride 
he won. Yet such is not the way of heroes whom 
goddesses as well as mortal women conspire to 
tempt from their loyalty. Fand, the wife of Man- 
anndn son of Ler, deserted by the sea-god, sent 
her sister Liban to Cuchulainn as an ambassador of 
love. At first he refused to visit her, but ordered 
Laeg, his charioteer, to go with Liban to the 
" Happy Plain " to spy out the land. Laeg re- 
turned enraptured. "If all Ireland were mine," 
he assured his master, "with supreme rule over 
its fair inhabitants, I would give it up without 
regret to go and live in the place that I have 


So Cuchulainn himself went and stayed a month 
in the Celtic Paradise with Fand, the fairest woman 
of the Sfdhe. Returning to the land of mortals, he 
made a tryst with the goddess to meet him again in 
his own country by the yew-tree at the head of 
Bailees strand. 

But Emer came to hear of it, and went to the 
meeting-place herself, with fifty of her maidens, each 
armed with a knife to kill her rival. There she 
found Cuchulainn, Laeg, and Fand 

"What has led you, Cuchulainn," said Emer, "to 
shame me before the women of Erin and all honour- 
able people? I came under your shelter, trusting 


From tht Drawing by H. R. Milled 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 187 

in your faithfulness, and now you seek a cause of 
quarrel with me." 

But Cuchulainn, hero-like, could not understand 
why his wife should not be content to take her turn 
with this other woman surely no unworthy rival, 
for she was beautiful, and came of the lofty race of 
gods. We see Emer yield at last, with queenly 

" I will not refuse this woman to you, if you long 
for her," she said, for I know that everything that 
is new seems fair, and everything that is common 
seems bitter, and everything we have not seems 
desirable to us, and everything we have we think 
little of. And yet, Cuchulainn, I was once pleasing 
to you, and I would wish to be so again/' 

Her grief touched him. " By my word," he said, 
"you are pleasing to me, and will be as long as I 

"Then let me be given up," said Fand. "It is 
better that I should be," replied Emer. " No," said 
Fand; " it is I who must be given up in the end. 

"It is I who will go, though I go with great 
sorrow. I would rather stay with Cuchulainn than 
live in the sunny home of the gods. 

"O Emer, he is yours, and you are worthy of 
him! What my hand cannot have, my heart may 
yet wish well to. 

"A sorrowful thing it is to love without return. 
Better to renounce than not to receive a love equal 
to one's own. 

"It was not well of you, O fair- haired Emer, to 
come to kill Fand in her misery." 

1 88 Mythology of the British Islands 

It was while the goddess and the human woman 
were contending with one another in self-sacrifice 
that Manannan, Son of the Sea, heard of Fand's 
trouble, and was sorry that he had forsaken her. 
So he came, invisible to all but her alone. He 
asked her pardon, and she herself could not forget 
that she had once been happy with the " horseman 
of the crested waves ", and still might be happy 
with him again. The god asked her to make her 
choice between them, and, when she went to him, 
he shook his mantle between her and Cuchulainn. 
It was one of the magic properties of Manannan's 
mantle that those between whom it was shaken 
could never meet again. Then Fand returned with 
her divine husband to the country of the immortals; 
and the druids of Emain Macha gave Cuchulainn 
and Emer each a drink of oblivion, so that Cuchu- 
lainn forgot his love and Emer her jealousy. 1 

The scene of this story takes its name from 
another, and hardly less beautiful love -tale. The 
" yew-tree at the head of Baile's strand " had grown 
out of the grave of Baile of the Honeyed Speech, 
and it bore the appearance of Baile's love, Ailinn. 
This Gaelic Romeo and Juliet were of royal birth: 
Baile was heir to Ulster, and Ailinn was daughter 
of the King of Leinster's son. Not by any feud 
of Montague and Capulet were they parted, how- 
ever, but by the craft of a ghostly enemy. They 
had appointed to meet one another at Dundealgan, 

i This story, known as the Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn, translated into French by 
M. d'Arbois de Jubainville, will be found in his LtApopte Celtique en Irlande, the fifth 
volume of Cour de Literature Celtique. Another translation, into English, by 
Eugene O'Curry is in Atlantis, Vols. I and II. 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 189 

and Baile, who arrived there first, was greeted by a 
stranger. " What news do you bring?" asked Baiie. 
14 None," replied the stranger, " except that Ailinn 
of Leinster was setting out to meet her lover, but 
the men of Leinster kept her back, and her heart 
broke then and there from grief. " When Baile 
heard this, his own heart broke, and he fell dead 
on the strand, while the messenger went on the 
wings of the wind to the home of Ailinn, who had 
not yet started. " Whence come you?" she asked 
him. " From Ulster, by the shore of Dundealgan, 
where I saw men raising a stone over one who had 
just died, and on the stone I read the name of Baile. 
He had come to meet some woman he was in love 
with, but it was destined that they should never see 
one another again in life." At this news Ailinn, too, 
fell dead, and was buried; and we are told that an 
apple-tree grew out of her grave, the apples of which 
bore the likeness of the face of Baile, while a yew- 
tree sprung from Baile's grave, and took the appear- 
ance of Ailinn. This legend, which is probably a 
part of the common heritage of the Aryans, is found 
in folk-lore over an area which stretches from Ireland 
to India. The Gaelic version has, however, an end- 
ing unknown to the others. The two trees, it relates, 
were cut down, and made into wands upon which 
the poets of Ulster and of Leinster cut the songs of 
the love-tragedies of their two provinces, in ogam. 
But even these mute memorials of Baile and Ailinn 
were destined not to be divided. After two hundred 
years, Art the " Lonely", High-King of Ireland, 
ordered them to be brought to the hall of 

190 Mythology of the British Islands 

and, as soon as the wands found themselves under 
the same roof, they all sprang together, and no force 
or skill could part them again. So the king com- 
manded them to be " kept, like any other jewel, in 
the treasury of Tara." 1 

Neither of these stories, however, has as yet 
attained the fame of one now to be retold. 2 To 
many, no doubt, Gaelic romance is summed up in 
the one word Deirdre. It is the legend of this 
Gaelic Helen that the poets of the modern Celtic 
school most love to elaborate, while old men still tell 
it round the peat-fires of Ireland and the Highlands. 
Scholar and peasant alike combine to preserve a 
tradition no one knows how many hundred years 
old, for it was written down in the twelfth-century 
Book of Leinster as one of the " prime stories'* 
which every bard was bound to be able to recite 
It takes rank with the " Fate of the Sons of Tui- 
renn ", and with the " Fate of the Children of Ler ", 
as one of the " Three Sorrowful Stories of Erin ". 

So favourite a tale has naturally been much altered 
and added to in its passage down the generations. 
But its essential story is as follows: 

King Conchobar of Ulster was holding festival in 
the house of one of his bards, called Fedlimid, when 
Fedlimid's wife gave birth to a daughter, concerning 
whom Cathbad the Druid uttered a prophecy. He 

1 For the full story of Baile and Ailinn see Dr. Kuno Meyer's translation in 
VoL XIII of the Rruue Celtique. 

3 There are not only numerous translations of this romance, but also many 
Gaelic versions. The oldest of the latter is in the Book of Leinster, while the fullctt 
are in two MSS. in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh. The version followed 
here is from one of these, the so-called Glenn Masain MS., translated by Dr, 
Whitiev Stokes, and contained in Miss Hull's Cuchullin Saga. 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 191 

foretold that the new-born child would grow up to 
be the most lovely woman the world had ever 
seen, but that her beauty would bring death to 
many heroes, and much peril and sorrow to Ulster. 
On hearing this, the Red Branch warriors demanded 
that she should be killed, but Conchobar refused, 
and gave the infant to a trusted serving-woman, 
to be hidden in a secret place in the solitude of 
the mountains, until she was of an age to be his 
own wife. 

So Deirdre (as Cathbad named her) was taken 
away to a hut so remote from the paths of men that 
none knew of it save Conchobar. Here she was 
brought up by a nurse, a fosterer, and a teacher, 
and saw no other living creatures save the beasts 
and birds of the hills. Nevertheless, woman-like, 
she aspired to be loved. 

One day, her fosterer was killing a calf for their 
food, and its blood ran out upon the snowy ground, 
which brought a black raven swooping to the spot. 
"If there were a man/' said Deirdre, "who had 
hair of the blackness of that raven, skin of the 
whiteness of the snow, and cheeks as red as the 
calf's blood, that is the man whom I would wish 
to marry me." 

" Indeed there is such a man/' replied her teacher 
thoughtlessly. " Naoise 1 , one of the sons of Usnach 2 , 
heroes of the same race as Conchobar the King. 

The curious Deirdre prevailed upon her teacher 
to bring Naoise - to speak with her. When they 
met she made good use of her time, for she offered 

1 Pronounced Naisi. * Pronounced 

192 Mythology of the British Islands 

Naoise her love, and begged him to take her away 
from King Conchobar. 

Naoise, bewitched by her beauty, consented. 
Accompanied by his two brothers, Ardan and 
Ainle, and their followers, he fled with Deirdre 
to Alba, where they made alliance with one of its 
kings, and wandered over the land, living by follow- 
ing the deer, and by helping the king in his battles. 

The revengeful Conchobar bided his time. One 
day, as the heroes of the Red Branch feasted to- 
gether at Emain Macha, he asked them if they had 
ever heard of a nobler company than their own. 
They replied that the world could not hold such 
another. " Yet ", said the king, " we lack our full 
tale. The three sons of Usnach could defend the 
province of Ulster against any other province of 
Ireland by themselves, and it is a pity that they 
should still be exiles, for the sake of any woman 
in the world. Gladly would I welcome them back!" 

" We ourselves ", replied the Ultonians, " would 
have counselled this long ago had we dared, O 

11 Then I will send one of my three best champions 
to fetch them," said Conchobar. " Either Conall 
the Victorious, or Cuchulainn, the son of Sualtam, 
or Fergus, the son of Roy ; and I will find out which 
of those three loves me best." 

First he called Conall to him secretly. 

"What would you do, O Conall," he asked, "if 
you were sent to fetch the sons of Usnach, and they 
were killed here, in spite of your safe-conduct?" 

" There is not a man in Ulster," answered Conall, 

Some Gaelic Love-Stones 193 

"who had hand in it that would escape his own 
death from me/' 

" I see that I am not dearest of all men to you," 
replied Conchobar, and, dismissing Conall, he called 
Cuchulainn, and put the same question to him. 

" By my sworn word/ 1 replied Cuchulainn, " if 
such a thing happened with your consent, no bribe 
or blood-fine would I accept in lieu of your own 
head, O Conchobar/' 

" Truly," said the king, " it is not you I will 

The king then asked Fergus, and he replied 
that, if the sons of Usnach were slain while under 
his protection, he would revenge the deed upon 
anyone who was party to it, save only the king 

' ' Then it is you who shall go," said Conchobar. 
" Set forth to-morrow, and rest not by the way, 
and when you put foot again in Ireland at the 
Dtin of Borrach, whatever may happen to you 
yourself, send the sons of Usnach forward with- 
out delay." 

The next morning, Fergus, with his two sons, 
Illann the Fair and Buinne the Ruthless Red, set 
out for Alba in their galley, and reached Loch 
Etive, by whose shores the sons of Usnach were 
then living. Naoise, Ainle, and Ardan were sitting 
at chess when they heard Fergus's shout. 

" That is the cry of a man of Erin," said Naoise. 

" Nay," replied Deirdre, who had forebodings of 
trouble. " Do not heed it; it is only the shout of a 
man of Alba." But the sons of Usnach knew better, 

(9219) N 

194 Mythology of the British Islands 

and sent Ardan down to the sea-shore, where he 
found Fergus and his sons, and gave them greet- 
ing, and heard their message, and brought them 
back with him. 

That night Fergus persuaded the sons of Usnach 
to return with him to Emain Macha. Deirdre, with 
her " second sight ", implored them to remain in 
Alba. But the exiles were weary for the sight of 
their own country, and did not share their com- 
panion's fears. As they put out to sea, Deirdre 
uttered her beautiful " Farewell to Alba ", that land 
she was never to behold again. 

" A lovable land is yon eastern land, 
Alba, with its marvels. 
I would not have come hither out of it, 
Had I not come with Naoise. 

w Lovable are Diin-fidga and Diin-finn, 
Lovable the fortress over them ; 
Dear to the heart Inis Draigende, 
And very dear is Dun Suibni. 

"Caill Cuan! 

Unto which Ainle would wend, alas! 
Short the time seemed to me, 
With Naoise in the region of Alba. 

"Glenn Ldid! 

Often I slept there under the cliff; 
Fish and venison and the fat of the badger 
Was my portion in Glenn Ldid. 

44 Glenn Masdin! 

Its garlic was tall, its branches white; 
We slept a rocking sleep, 
Over the grassy estuary of Masdin, 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 195 

"Glenn Etive! 

Where my first house I raised ; 
Beauteous its wood: upon rising 
A cattle-fold for the sun was Glenn Etive. 

"Glenn Dd-Ruad! 

My love to every man who hath it as an heritage! 
Sweet the cuckoos' note on bending bough, 
On the peak over Glenn Da-Riiad. 

u Beloved is Draigen, 
Dear the white sand beneath its waves; 
I would not have come from it, from the East, 
Had I not come with my beloved." 

They crossed the sea, and arrived at the Diin of 
Borrach, who bade them welcome to Ireland. Now 
King Conchobar had sent Borrach a secret com- 
mand, that he should offer a feast to Fergus on his 
landing. Strange taboos called geasa are laid upon 
the various heroes of ancient Ireland in the stories; 
there are certain things that each one of them may 
not do without forfeiting life or honour; and it was 
a gets upon Fergus to refuse a feast 

Fergus, we are told, " reddened with anger from 
crown to sole " at the invitation. Yet he could not 
avoid the feast. He asked Naoise what he should 
do, and Deirdre broke in with: " Do what is asked 
of you if you prefer to forsake the sons of Usnach 
for a feast Yet forsaking them is a good price to 
pay for it." 

Fergus, however, perceived a possible compro- 
mise. Though he himself could not refuse to stop 
to partake of Borrach's hospitality, he could send 

196 Mythology of the British Islands 

Deirdre and the sons of Usnach on to Emain 
Macha at once, under the safeguard of his two sons, 
Illann the Fair and Buinne the Ruthless Red. So 
this was done, albeit to the annoyance of the sons 
of Usnach and the terror of Deirdre. Visions came 
to the sorrowful woman; she saw the three sons of 
Usnach and Illann, the son of Fergus, without their 
heads; she saw a cloud of blood always hanging 
over them. She begged them to wait in some safe 
place until Fergus had finished the feast. But 
Naoise, Ainle, and Ardan laughed at her fears. 
They arrived at Emain Macha, and Conchobar 
ordered the " Red Branch " palace to be placed at 
their disposal. 

In the evening Conchobar called Levarcham, 
Deirdre's old teacher, to him. "Go", he said, "to 
the ' Red Branch ', and see Deirdre, and bring me 
back news of her appearance, whether she still 
keeps her former beauty, or whether it has left her." 

So Levarcham came to the " Red Branch ", and 
kissed Deirdre and the three sons of Usnach, and 
warned them that Conchobar was preparing treach- 
ery. Then she went back to the king, and reported 
to him that Deirdre's hard life upon the mountains 
of Alba had ruined her form and face, so that she 
was no longer worthy of his regard. 

At this, Conchobar's jealousy was partly allayed, 
and he began to doubt whether it would be wise to 
attack the sons of Usnach. But later on, when he 
had drunk well of wine, he sent a second messenger 
to see if what Levarcham had reported about Deir- 
dre was truth. 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 197 

The messenger, this time a man, went and looked 
in through a window. Deirdre saw him and pointed 
him out to Naoise, who flung a chessman at the peer- 
ing face, and put out one of its eyes. But the man 
went back to Conchobar, and told him that, though 
one of his eyes had been struck out, he would gladly 
have stayed looking with the other, so great was 
Deirdre's loveliness. 

Then Conchobar, in his wrath, ordered the men 
of Ulster to set fire to the Red Branch House and 
slay all within it except Deirdre. They flung fire- 
brands upon it, but Buinne the Ruthless Red came 
out and quenched them, and drove the assailants 
back with slaughter. But Conchobar called to him 
to parley, and offered him a " hundred " of land and 
his friendship to desert the sons of Usnach. Buinne 
was tempted, and fell; but the land given him 
turned barren that very night in indignation at 
being owned by such a traitor. 

The other of Fergus's sons was of different make. 
He charged out, torch in hand, and cut down the 
Ultonians, so that they hesitated to come near the 
house again. Conchobar dared not offer him a 
bribe. But he armed his own son, Fiacha, with 
his own magic weapons, including his shield, the 
" Moaner ", which roared when its owner was in 
danger, and sent him to fight Illann. 

The duel was a fierce one, and Illann got the 
better of Fiacha, so that the son of Conchobar had 
to crouch down beneath his shield, which roared for 
help. Conall the Victorious heard the roar from far 
off, and thought that his king must be in peril He 

198 Mythology of the British Islands 

came to the place, and, without asking questions, 
thrust his spear " Blue-green " through Illann. The 
dying son of Fergus explained the situation to 
Conall, who, by way of making some amends, at 
once killed Fiacha as well. 

After this, the sons of Usnach held their fort till 
dawn against all Conchobar's host. But, with day, 
they saw that they must either escape or resign 
themselves to perish. Putting Deirdre in their 
centre, protected by their shields, they opened the 
door suddenly and fled out. 

They would have broken through and escaped, 
had not Conchobar asked Cathbad the Druid to 
put a spell upon them, promising to spare their 
lives. So Cathbad raised the illusion of a stormy 
sea before and all around the sons of Usnach. 
Naoise lifted Deirdre upon his shoulder, but the 
magic waves rose higher, until they were all obliged 
to fling away their weapons and swim. 

Then was seen the strange sight of men swim- 
ming upon dry land. And, before the glamour 
passed away, the sons of Usnach were seized from 
behind, and brought to Conchobar. 

In spite of his promise to the druid, the king 
condemned them to death. None of the men of 
Ulster would, however, deal the blow. In the end, 
a foreigner from Norway, whose father Naoise had 
slain, offered to behead them. Each of the brothers 
begged to die first, that he might not witness the 
deaths of the others. But Naoise ended this noble 
rivalry by lending their executioner the sword 
called "The Retaliator", which had been given 


From the Drawing by J. H. Bacon, A.R.A, 

Some Gaelic Love-Stories 199 


him by Mananndn son of Ler. They knelt down 
side by side, and one blow of the sword of the god 
shore off all their heads. 

As for Deirdre, there are varying stories of her 
death, but most of them agree that she did not 
survive the sons of Usnach many hours. But, 
before she died, she made an elegy over them. 
That it is of a singular pathos and beauty the few 
verses which there is space to give will show. 1 

"Long the day without Usnach's children! 
It was not mournful to be in their company! 
Sons of a king by whom sojourners were entertained, 
Three lions from the Hill of the Cave. 

Three darlings of the women of Britain, 
Three hawks of Slieve Gullion, 
Sons of a king whom valour served, 
To whom soldiers used to give homage I 

" That I should remain after Naoise 
Let no one in the world suppose: 
After Ardan and Ainle 
My time would not be long. 

" Ulster's over-king, my first husband, 
I forsook for Naoise's love. 
Short my life after them : 
I will perform their funeral game. 

" After them I shall not be alive 
Three that would go into every conflict, 

i It will be found in full in Miss Hull's Cuchullin Saga. The version there 
given was first translated into French by M. Ponsinet from the Book of Leinster. 

2OO Mythology of the British Islands 

Three who liked to endure hardships, 
Three heroes who refused not combats. 

" O man, that diggest the tomb 
And puttest my darling from me, 
Make not the grave too narrow: 
I shall be beside the noble ones." 

It was a poor triumph for Conchobar. Deirdre in 
all her beauty had escaped him by death. His own 
chief followers never forgave it Fergus, when he 
returned from Borrach's feast, and found out what 
had been done, gathered his own people, slew Con- 
chobar's son and many of his warriors, and fled to 
Ulster's bitterest enemies, Ailill and Medb of Con- 
naught. And Cathbad the Druid cursed both king 
and kingdom, praying that none of Conchobar's 
race might ever reign in Emain Macha again. 

So it came to pass. The capital of Ulster was 
only kept from ruin by Cuchulainn's prowess. When 
he perished, it also fell, and soon became what it is 
now a grassy hill. 



The epoch of Emain Macha is followed in the 
annals of ancient Ireland by a succession of mon- 
archs who, though doubtless as mythical as King 
Conchobar and his court, seem to grow gradually 
more human. Their line lasts for about two cen- 
turies, culminating in a dynasty with which legend 
has occupied itself more than with its immediate pre- 
decessors. This is the one which began, according 
to the annalists, in A.D. 177, with the famous Conn 
"the Hundred- Fighter", and, passing down to the 
reign of his even more famous grandson, Cormac 
" the Magnificent'', is connected with the third Gaelic 
cycle that which relates the exploits of Finn and 
the Fenians. All these kings had their dealings with 
the national gods. A story contained in a fifteenth- 
century Irish manuscript, and called "The Champion's 
Prophecy ", 2 tells how Lugh appeared to Conn, en- 
veloped him in a magic mist, led him away to an 
enchanted palace, and there prophesied to him the 
number of his descendants, the length of their reigns, 

i The translations of Fenian stories are numerous. The reader will find many of 
them popularly retold in Lady Gregory's Gods and Fighting Men. Thence he may 
pass on to Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady's Silva Gadelica ; the Waifs and Strays 
of Celtic Tradition, especially Vol. IV; Mr. J. G. Campbell's The Fians\ as well 
as the volumes of the Revue Celtique and the Transactions of the Ossianic Society. 

3 See O'Curry's translation in Appendix cxxvni to his MS. Materials. 


2O2 Mythology of the British Islands 

and the manner of their deaths. Another tradition 
relates how Conn's son, Connla, was wooed by a 
goddess and borne away, like the British Arthur, 
in a boat of glass to the Earthly Paradise beyond 
the sea. 1 Yet another relates Conn's own marriage 
with Becuma of the Fair Skin, wife of that same 
Labraid of the Quick Hand on Sword who, in an- 
other legend, married Liban, the sister of Fand, 
Cuchulainn's fairy love. Becuma had been dis- 
covered in an intrigue with Gaiar, a son of Man- 
annan, and, banished from the " Land of Promise ", 
crossed the sea that sunders mortals and immortals 
to offer her hand to Conn. The Irish king wedded 
her, but evil came of the marriage. She grew 
jealous of Conn's other son, Art, and insisted upon 
his banishment; but they agreed to play chess to 
decide which should go, and Art won. Art, called 
" the Lonely " because he had lost his brother 
Connla, was king after Conn, but he is chiefly 
known to legend as the father of Cormac. 

Many Irish stories occupy themselves with the 
fame of Cormac, who is pictured as a great legislator 
a Gaelic Solomon. Certain traditions credit him 
with having been the first to believe in a purer 
doctrine than the Celtic polytheism, and even with 
having attempted to put down druidism, in revenge 
for which a druid called Maelcen sent an evil spirit 
who placed a salmon-bone crossways in the king's 
throat, as he sat at meat, and so compassed his 
death. Another class of stories, however, make him 

1 The story, found in the Book of the Dun Cow, appears in French in De Jubaiu- 
ville's fepopte Ccliique. 

Finn and the Fenians 203 

an especial favourite with those same heathen deities. 
Mananndn son of Ler, was so anxious for his friend- 
ship that he decoyed him into fairyland, and gave 
him a magic branch. It was of silver, and bore 
golden apples, and, when it was shaken, it made 
such sweet music that the wounded, the sick, and 
the sorrowful forgot their pains, and were lulled into 
deep sleep. Cormac kept this treasure all his life; 
but, at his death, it returned into the hands of the 
gods. 1 

King Cormac was a contemporary of Finn mac 
Coul 2 , whom he appointed head of the Fianna* 
Eirinn, more generally known as the " Fenians ". 
Around Finn and his men have gathered a cycle 
of legends which were equally popular with the 
Gaels of both Scotland and Ireland. We read of 
their exploits in stories and poems preserved in the 
earliest Irish manuscripts, while among the pea- 
santry both of Ireland and of the West Highlands 
their names and the stories connected with them are 
still current lore. Upon some of these floating tra- 
ditions, as preserved in folk ballads, MacPherson 
founded his factitious Ossian, and the collection 
of them from the lips of living men still affords 
plenty of employment to Gaelic students. 

How far Finn and his followers may have been 
historical personages it is impossible to say. The 
Irish people themselves have always held that the 
Fenians were a kind of native militia, and that Finn 

1 This famous story is told in several MSS. of the fourteenth and fifteenth cen- 
turies. For translations see Dr. Whitley Stokes, Irische Texte, and Standish Hayes 
O'Grady, Transactions of the Ossianic Society, Vol. III. 

* In Gaelic spelling, Fionn mac Cumhail. 3 Pronounced Fena. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

was their general. The early historical writers of 
Ireland supported this view. The chronicler Tigher- 
nach, who died in 1088, believed in him, and the 
" Annals of the Four Masters ", compiled between 
the years 1632 and 1636 from older chronicles, while 
they ignore King Conchobar and his Red Branch 
Champions as unworthy of the serious consideration 
of historians, treat Finn as a real person whose death 
took place in 283 A.D. Even so great a modern 
scholar as Eugene O'Curry declared in the clearest 
language that Finn, so far from being "a merely 
imaginary or mythical character", was "an un- 
doubtedly historical personage; and that he existed 
about the time at which his appearance is recorded 
in the Annals is as certain as that Julius Caesar 
lived and ruled at the time stated on the authority 
of the Roman historians". 1 

The opinion of more recent Celtic scholars, how- 
ever, is opposed to this view. Finn's pedigree, pre- 
served in the Book of Leinster, may seem at first to 
give some support to the theory of his real existence, 
but, on more careful examination of it, his own name 
and that of his father equally bewray him. Finn 
or Fionn, meaning " fair", is the name of one of the 
mythical ancestors of the Gaels, while his father's 
name, Cumhal 2 , signifies the "sky", and is the same 
word as Camulus, the Gaulish heaven-god identified 
by the Romans with Mars. His followers are as 
doubtfully human as himself. One may compare 
them with Cuchulainn and the rest of the heroes of 
Emain Macha. Their deeds are not less marvellous. 

1 O'Curry : MS. Materials, Lecture XIV, p. 303. a Pronounced Coul or CooaL 

Finn and the Fenians 205 

Like the Ultonian warriors, they move, too, on equal 
terms with the gods. "The Fianna of Erin", says 
a tract called "The Dialogue of the Elders", 1 con- 
tained in thirteenth and fourteenth century manu- 
scripts, " had not more frequent and free intercourse 
with the men of settled habitation than with the 
Tuatha D6 Danann". 2 Angus, Mider, Ler, Man~ 
anndn, and Bodb the Red, with their countless sons 
and daughters, loom as large in the Fenian, or so- 
called "Ossianic" stories as do the Fenians them- 
selves. They fight for them, or against them; they 
marry them, and are given to them in marriage. 

A luminous suggestion of Professor Rhys also 
hints that the Fenians inherited the conduct of that 
ancient war formerly waged between the Tuatha 
D6 Danann and the Fomors. The most common 
antagonists of Finn and his heroes are tribes of 
invaders from oversea, called in the stories the 
Lochlannach. These <( Men of Lochlann" are usually 
identified, by those who look for history in the stories 
of the Fenian cycle, with the invading bands of 
Norsemen who harried the Irish coasts in the ninth 
century. But the nucleus of the Fenian tales ante- 
dates these Scandinavian raids, and mortal foes have 
probably merely stepped into the place of those im- 
mortal enemies of the gods whose " Lochlann" was 
a country, not over the sea but under it. 3 

The earlier historians of Ireland were as ready 
with their dates and facts regarding the Fenian band 

i Agalamh na Sendrack. Under the title The Colloquy of the. Ancients, there is 
an excellent translation of it, from tht Book of LUmore, in Standish Hayes O'Grad/s 
Silva GadeHca, 2 O^Gmdy : Sitoa Gafclica. 3 Hibbert Lectures, p. 355, 

2o6 Mythology of the British Islands 

as an institution as with the personality of Finn. 
It was said to have been first organized by a king 
called Fiachadh, in 300 B.C., and abolished, or rather, 
exterminated, by Cairbr6, the son of Cormac mac 
Art, in 284 A.D. We are told that it consisted of 
three regiments modelled on the Roman legion; 
each of these bodies contained, on a peace footing, 
three thousand men, but in time of war could be 
indefinitely strengthened. Its object was to defend 
the coasts of Ireland and the country generally, 
throwing its weight upon the side of any prince 
who happend to be assailed by foreign foes. During 
the six months of winter, its members were quar- 
tered upon the population, but during the summer 
they had to forage for themselves, which they did 
by hunting and fishing. Thus they lived in the 
woods and on the open moors, hardening themselves 
for battle by their adventurous life. The sites of 
their enormous camp-fires were long pointed out 
under the name of the " Fenians' cooking-places ". 
It was not easy to become a member of this famous 
band. A candidate had to be not only an expert 
warrior, but a poet and a man of culture as well. 
He had practically to renounce his tribe; at any 
rate he made oath that he would neither avenge 
any of his relatives nor be avenged by them. He 
put himself under bonds never to refuse hospitality 
to anyone who asked, never to turn his back in 
battle, never to insult any woman, and not to accept 
a dowry with his wife. In addition to all this, he 
had to pass successfully through the most stringent 
physical tests. Indeed, as these have come down 

Finn and the Fenians 207 

to us, magnified by the perfervid Celtic imagination, 
they are of an altogether marvellous and impossible 
character. An aspirant to the Fianna Eirinn, we 
are told, had first to stand up to his knees in a pit 
dug for him, his only arms being his shield and a 
hazel wand, while nine warriors, each with a spear, 
standing within the distance of nine ridges of land, 
all hurled their weapons at him at once; if he failed 
to ward them all off, he was rejected. Should he 
succeed in this first test, he was given the distance 
of one tree-length's start, and chased through a 
forest by armed men; if any of them came up to 
him and wounded him, he could not belong to the 
Fenians. If he escaped unhurt, but had unloosed 
a single lock of his braided hair, or had broken a 
single branch in his flight, or if, at the end of the 
run, his weapons trembled in his hands, he was 
refused. As, besides these tests, he was obliged to 
jump over a branch as high as his forehead, and 
stoop under one as low as his knee, while running 
at full speed, and to pluck a thorn out of his heel 
without hindrance to his flight, it is clear that even 
the rank and file of the Fenians must have been 
quite exceptional athletes. 1 

But it is time to pass on to a more detailed de- 
scription of these champions. 2 They are a goodly 
company, not less heroic than the mighty men of 
Ulster. First conies Finn himself, not the strongest 
in body of the Fenians, but the truest, wisest, and 
kindest, gentle to women, generous to men, and 

1 See The Enumeration of Finn's Household, translated by O'Grady in Silva 
Gadelica. 2 For a good account, see J. G. Campbell's Tke Fim$\ PP- 10-80. 

ao8 Mythology of the British Islands 

trusted by all. If he could help it, he would never 
let anyone be in trouble or poverty. " If the dead 
leaves of the forest had been gold, and the white 
foam of the water silver, Finn would have given it 
all away." 

Finn had two sons, Fergus and his more famous 
brother Ossian 1 . Fergus of the sweet speech was 
the Fenian's bard, and, also, because of his honeyed 
words, their diplomatist and ambassador. Yet, by 
the irony of fate, it is to Ossian, who is not men- 
tioned as a poet in the earliest texts, that the poems 
concerning the Fenians which are current in Scot- 
land under the name of "Ossianic Ballads" are 
attributed. Ossian's mother was Sadb, a daughter 
of Bodb the Red. A rival goddess changed her into 
a deer which explains how Ossian got his name, 
which means "fawn". With such advantages of 
birth, naturally he was speedy enough to run down 
a red deer hind and catch her by the ear, though 
far less swift-footed than his cousin Caoilte 2 , the 
41 Thin Man". Neither was he so strong as his own 
son Oscar, the mightiest of all the Fenians, yet, in 
his youth, so clumsy that the rest of the band refused 
to take him with them on their warlike expeditions. 
They changed their minds, however, when, one day, 
he followed them unawares, found them giving way 
before an enemy, and, rushing to their help, armed 
only with a great log of wood which lay handy on 
the ground, turned the fortunes of the fight. After 
this, Oscar was hailed the best warrior of all the 

i In more correct spelling* Oisix, and pronounced Utkeen or I sheen, 
9 Pronounced fCylta or Cwecltia 








Finn and the Fenians 209 

Fianna; he was given command of a battalion, 
and its banner, called the " Terrible Broom", 
was regarded as the centre of every battle, for 
it was never known to retreat a foot. Other pro- 
minent Fenians were Goll 1 , son of Morna, at first 
Finn's enemy but afterwards his follower, a man 
skilled alike in war and learning. Even though 
he was one-eyed, we are told that he was much 
loved by women, but not so much as Finn's 
cousin, Diarmait O'Duibhne 2 , whose fatal beauty 
ensnared even Finn's betrothed bride, Grainne 8 . 
Their comic character was Conan, who is repre- 
sented as an old, bald, vain, irritable man, as great 
a braggart as ancient Pistol and as foul-mouthed as 
Thersites, and yet, after he had once been shamed 
into activity, a true man of his hands. These are 
the prime Fenian heroes, the chief actors in its 

The Fenian epic begins, before the birth of its 
hero, with the struggle of two rival clans, each of 
whom claimed to be the real and only Fianna 
Eirinn. They were called the Clann Morna, of 
which Goll mac Morna was head, and the Clann 
Baoisgne 4 , commanded by Finn's father, CumhaL 
A battle was fought at Cnucha 5 , in which Goll 
killed Cumhal, and the Clann Baoisgne was scat- 
tered. Cumhal's wife, however, bore a posthumous 
son, who was brought up among the Slieve Bloom 
Mountains secretly, for fear his father's enemies 
should find and kill him. The boy, who was at first 

1 Pronounced Gaul. 2 Pronounced Dtrmat O'Dyna. 8 Pronounced Grania. 

4 Pronounced Basktn. 5 Now Castleknock, near Dublin. 


2io Mythology of the British Islands 

called Deimne 1 , grew up to be an expert hurler, 
swimmer, runner, and hunter. Later, like Cuchu- 
lainn, and indeed many modern savages, he took a 
second, more personal name. Those who saw him 
asked who was the "fair" youth. He accepted the 
omen, and called himself Deimne Finn. 

At length, he wandered to the banks of the Boyne, 
where he found a soothsayer called Finn the Seer 
living beside a deep pool near Slane, named " Fee's 
Pool ", in hope of catching one of the "salmons of 
knowledge ", and, by eating it, obtaining universal 
wisdom. He had been there seven years without 
result, though success had been prophesied to one 
named "Finn", When the wandering son of 
Cumhal appeared, Finn the Seer engaged him as 
his servant. Shortly afterwards, he caught the 
coveted fish, and handed it over to our Finn to 
cook, warning him to eat no portion of it. " Have 
you eaten any of it?" he asked the boy, as he brought 
it up ready boiled. "No indeed," replied Finn; 
" but, while I was cooking it, a blister rose upon the 
skin, and, laying my thumb down upon the blister, I 
scalded it, and so I put it into my mouth to ease the 
pain." The man was perplexed. "You told me 
your name was Deimne," he said; "but have you 
any other name?" "Yes, I am also called Finn/ 
" It is enough," replied his disappointed master, 
" Eat the salmon yourself, for you must be the one 
of whom the prophecy told." Finn ate the "salmon 
of knowledge ", and thereafter he had only to put his 
thumb under his tooth, as he had done when he 

1 Pronounced Demna, 

From the Drawing by H. R. Millar 

Finn and the Fenians 211 

scalded it, to receive fore-knowledge and magic 
counsel 1 

Thus armed, Finn was more than a match for the 
Clann Morna. Curious legends tell how he dis- 
covered himself to his father's old followers, con- 
founded his enemies with his magic, and turned 
them into faithful servants. 2 Even Goll of the 
Blows had to submit to his sway. Gradually he 
welded the two opposing clans into one Fianna, 
over which he ruled, taking tribute from the kings 
of Ireland, warring against the Fomorian " Loch- 
lannach ", destroying every kind of giant, serpent, 
or monster that infested the land, and at last carry- 
ing his mythical conquests over all Europe. 

Out of the numberless stories of the Fenian ex- 
ploits it is hard to choose examples. All are heroic, 
romantic, wild, fantastic. In many of them the 
Tuatha D6 Danann play prominent parts. One 
such story connects itself with an earlier mythological 
episode already related. The reader will remember 8 
how, when the Dagda gave up the kingship of the 
immortals, five aspirants appeared to clairp it; how 
of these five Angus, Mider, Lr, Ilbhreach son 
of Mannanan, and Bodb the Red the latter was 
chosen; how Lr refused to acknowledge him, but 
was reconciled later; how Mider, equally rebellious, 
fled to " desert country round Mount Leinster" in 
County Carlow; and how a yearly war was waged 
upon him and his people by the rest of the gods to 

1 This and other "boy-exploits" of Finn mac Cumhail are contained in a little 
tract written upon a fragment of the ninth century Psalter of Cashel, It is trans* 
lated in Vol. IV of the Transactions of the Ossianic Society. 

* Campbell's Fians, p. 22. * See chap. XI " The Gods in Exile ", 

212 Mythology of the British Islands 

bring them to subjection. This war was still raging 
in the time of Finn, and Mider was not too proud to 
seek his help. One day that Finn was hunting in 
Donegal, with Ossian, Oscar, Caoilte, and Diarmait, 
their hounds roused a beautiful fawn, which, although 
at every moment apparently nearly overtaken, led 
them in full chase as far as Mount Leinster. Here 
it suddenly disappeared into a cleft in the hillside. 
Heavy snow, " making the forest's branches as it 
were a withe-twist ", now fell, forcing the Fenians to 
seek for some shelter, and they therefore explored 
the place into which the fawn had vanished. It led 
to a splendid sidh in the hollow of the hill. Enter- 
ing it, they were greeted by a beautiful goddess- 
maiden, who told them that it was she, Mider's 
daughter, who had been the fawn, and that she had 
taken that shape purposely to lead them there, in 
the hope of getting their help against the army that 
was coming to attack the sidh. Finn asked who the 
assailants would be, and was told that they were 
Bodb the Red with his seven sons, Angus " Son 
of the Young " with his seven sons, Ler of Sfdh 
Fionnechaidh with his twenty -seven sons, and 
Fionnbharr of Sfdh Meadha with his seventeen 
sons, as well as numberless gods of lesser fame 
drawn from sidhe not only over all Ireland, but from 
Scotland and the islands as well Finn promised 
his aid, and, with the twilight of that same day, the 
attacking forces appeared, and made their annual 
assault. They were beaten off, after a battle that 
lasted all night, with the loss of "ten men, ten 
score, and ten hundred ". Finn, Oscar, and Diarmait, 

Finn and the Fenians 213 

as well as most of Mider's many sons, were sorely 
wounded, but the leech Labhra healed all their 
wounds. 1 

Sooth to say, the Fenians did not always require 
the excuse of fairy alliance to start them making 
war on the race of the hills. One of the so-called 
" Ossianic ballads " is entitled " The Chase of the 
Enchanted Pigs of Angus of the Brugh 2 ". This 
Angus is, of course, the "Son of the Young", and 
the Brugh that famous sidh beside the Boyne out 
of which he cheated his father, the Dagda. After 
the friendly manner of gods towards heroes, he in- 
vited Finn and a picked thousand of his followers 
to a banquet at the Brugh. They came to it in their 
finest clothes, " goblets went from hand to hand, 
and waiters were kept in motion ". At last con- 
versation fell upon the comparative merits of the 
pleasures of the table and of the chase, Angus stoutly 
contending that " the gods 1 life of perpetual feast- 
ing 11 was better than all the Fenian huntings, and 
Finn as stoutly denying it. Finn boasted of his 
hounds, and Angus said that the best of them could 
not kill one of his pigs. Finn angrily replied that 
his two hounds, Bran 3 and Sgeolan 4 , would kill any 
pig that trod on dry land. Angus answered that he 
could show Finn a pig that none of his hounds or 
huntsmen could catch or kill. Here were the 
makings of a pretty quarrel among such inflammable 
creatures as gods and heroes, but the steward of 

1 From the Colloquy of the Ancients in O'Grady's Silva Gadelica. 

3 It is translated in Vol. VI of the Transactions of the Ossianic Society. 

9 Pronounced Bran, not Bran. 4 Pronounced Shdlaun or Scolaing. 

214 Mythology of the British Islands 

the feast interposed and sent everyone to bed. The 
next morning, Finn left the Brugh, for he did not 
want to fight all Angus's fairies with his handful of 
a thousand men. A year passed before he heard 
more of it; then came a messenger from Angus, 
reminding Finn of his promise to pit his men and 
hounds against Angus's pigs. The Fenians seated 
themselves on the tops of the hills, each with his 
favourite hound in leash, and they had not been 
there long before there appeared on the eastern 
plain a hundred and one such pigs as no Fenian had 
ever seen before. Each was as tall as a deer, and 
blacker than a smiths coals, having hair like a 
thicket and bristles like ships 1 masts. Yet such was 
the prowess of the Fenians that they killed them all, 
though each of the pigs slew ten men and many 
hounds. Then Angus complained that the Fenians 
had murdered his son and many others of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann, who, indeed, were none other 
than the pigs whose forms they had taken. There 
were mighty recriminations on both sides, and, in the 
end, the enraged Fenians prepared to attack the 
Brugh on the Boyne. Then only did Angus begin 
to yield, and, by the advice of Ossian, Finn made 
peace with him and his fairy folk. 

Such are specimens of the tales which go to 
make up the Fenian cycle of sagas. Hunting is the 
most prominent feature of them, for the Fenians 
were essentially a race of mighty hunters. But the 
creatures of their chase were not always flesh and 
blood Enchanters who wished the Fenians ill 
could always lure them into danger by taking the 

Finn and the Fenians 215 

shape of boar or deer, and many a story begins 
with an innocent chase and ends with a murderous 
battle. But out of such struggles the Fenians 
always emerge successfully, as Ossian is represented 
proudly boasting, " through truthfulness and the 
might of their hands ". 

The most famous chase of all is, however, not 
that of deer or boar, but of a woman and a man, 
Finn's betrothed wife and his nephew Diarmait. 1 
Ever fortunate in war, the Fenian leader found 
disaster in his love. Wishing for a wife in his old 
age, he sent to seek Grainne, the daughter of 
Cormac, the High- King of Ireland. Both King 
Cormac and his daughter consented, and Finn's 
ambassadors returned with an invitation to the 
suitor to come in a fortnight's time to claim his 
bride. He arrived with his picked band, and was 
received in state in the great banqueting -hall of 
Tara. There they feasted, and there Grainne, the 
king's daughter, casting her eyes over the assembled 
Fenian heroes, saw Diarmait O'Duibhne. 

This Fenian Adonis had a beauty-spot upon his 
cheek which no woman could see without falling 
instantly in love with him. Grainne, for all her 
royal birth, w r as no exception to this rule. She 
asked a druid to point her out the principal guests. 
The druid told her all their names and exploits. 
Then she called for a jewelled drinking-horn, and, 
filling it with a drugged wine, sent it round to each 
in turn, except to Diarmait. None could be so 

1 A fine translation of the Pursuit of Diarmait and Grainne has been published 
by S. H. O'Grady in Vol. Ill of the Transactions of the Ossianic Society 

216 Mythology of the British Islands 

discourteous as to refuse wine from the hand of a 
princess. All drank, and fell into deep sleep. 

Then, rising, she came to Diarmait, told him her 
passion for him, and asked for its return. " I will 
not love the betrothed of my chief/' he replied, 
"and, even if I wished, I dare not/' And he 
praised Finn's virtues, and decried his own fame. 
But Grainne merely answered that she put him 
under geasa (bonds which no hero could refuse to 
redeem) to flee with her; and at once went back to 
her chair before the rest of the company awoke 
from their slumber. 

After the feast, Diarmait went round to his com- 
rades, one by one, and told them of Grainne's love 
for him, and of the geasa she had placed upon him 
to take her from Tara. He asked each of them 
what he ought to do. All answered that no hero 
could break a geis put upon him by a woman. He 
even asked Finn, concealing Grainne's name, and 
Finn gave him the same counsel as the others. 
That night, the lovers fled from Tara to the ford of 
the Shannon at Athlone, crossed it, and came to 
a place called the "Wood of the Two Tents ", 
where Diarmait wove a hut of branches for Grainne 
to shelter in. 

Meanwhile Finn had discovered their flight, and 
his rage knew no bounds. He sent his trackers, 
the Claim JMeamhuain 1 , to follow them. They 
tracked them to the wood, and one of them climbed 
a tree, and, looking down, saw the hut, with a strong 
seven -doored fence built round it, and Diarmait and 

1 Pronounced Navin or Nowin. 

Finn and the Fenians 217 

Grainne inside. When the news came to the 
Fenians, they were sorry, for their sympathies were 
with Diarmait and not with Finn. They tried to 
warn him, but he took no heed; for he had deter- 
mined to fight and not to flee. Indeed, when Finn 
himself came to the fence, and called over it to 
Diarmait, asking if he and Grainne were within, he 
replied that they were, but that none should enter 
unless he gave permission. 

So Diarmait, like Cuchulainn in the war of Ulster 
against Ireland, found himself matched single- 
handed against a host. But, also like Cuchulainn, 
he had a divine helper. The favourite of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann, he had been the pupil of 
Mananndn son of Ler in the " Land of Promise ", 
and had been fostered by Angus of the Brugh. 
Mananndn had given him his two spears, the 
" Red Javelin" and the " Yellow Javelin ", and his 
two swords, the " Great Fury" and the " Little 
Fury ". And now Angus came to look for his 
foster-son, and brought with him the magic mantle 
of invisibility used by the gods. He advised Diar- 
mait and Grainne to come out wrapped in the 
cloak, and thus rendered invisible. Diarmait still 
refused to flee, but asked Angus to protect Grainne. 
Wrapping the magic mantle round her, the god led 
the princess away unseen by any of the Fenians. 

By this time, Finn had posted men outside all the 
seven doors in the fence. Diarmait went to each of 
them in turn. At the first, were Ossian and Oscar 
with the Clann Baoisgne. They offered him their 
protection. At the second, were Caoilte and the 

2i8 Mythology of the British Islands 

Clann Ronan, who said they would fight to the 
death for him. At the third, were Conan and the 
Clann Morna, also his friends. At the fourth, stood 
Cuan with the Fenians of Munster, Diarmait's native 
province. At the fifth, were the Ulster Fenians, 
who also promised him protection against Finn. 
But at the sixth, were the Clann Neamhuain, who 
hated him; and at the seventh, was Finn himself. 

" It is by your door that I will pass out, O Finn/' 
cried Diarmait. Finn charged his men to surround 
Diarmait as he came out, and kill him. But he 
leaped the fence, passing clean over their heads, 
and fled away so swiftly that they could not follow 
him. He never halted till he reached the place to 
which he knew Angus had taken Grainne. The 
friendly god left them with a little sage advice: 
never to hide in a tree with only one trunk; never 
to rest in a cave with only one entrance; never to 
land on an island with only one channel of ap- 
proach; not to eat their supper where they had 
cooked it, nor to sleep where they had supped, and, 
where they had slept once, never to sleep again. 
With these Red- Indian-like tactics, it was some time 
before Finn discovered them. 

However, he found out at last where they were, 
and sent champions with venomous hounds to take 
or kill them. But Diarmait conquered all who were 
sent against him. 

Yet still Finn pursued, until Diarmait, as a last 
hope of escape, took refuge under a magic quicken- 
tree 1 , which bore scarlet fruit, the ambrosia of the 

i The mountain -ash, or rowan. 

Finn and the Fenians 2i$ 

gods. It had grown from a single berry dropped 
by one of the Tuatha D6 Danann, who, when they 
found that they had carelessly endowed mortals with 
celestial and immortal food, had sent a huge, one- 
eyed Fomor called Sharvan the Surly to guard it, 
so that no man might eat of its fruit. All day, this 
Fomor sat at the foot of the tree, and, all night, he 
slept among its branches, and so terrible was his 
appearance that neither the Fenians nor any other 
people dared to come within several miles of him. 

But Diarmait was willing to brave the Fomor in 
the hope of getting a safe hiding-place for Grainne. 
He came boldly up to him, and asked leave to camp 
and hunt in his neighbourhood. The Fomor told 
him surlily that he might camp and hunt where he 
pleased, so long as he refrained from taking any of 
the scarlet berries. So Diarmait built a hut near 
a spring; and he and Grainne lived there, killing 
the wild animals for food. 

But, unhappily, Grainne conceived so strong a 
desire to eat the quicken berries that she felt that 
she must die unless her wish could be gratified. At 
first she tried to hide this longing, but in the end 
she was forced to tell her companion. Diarmait 
had no desire to quarrel with the Fomor; so he 
went to him and told the plight that Grainne was 
in, and asked for a handful of the berries as a 

But the Fomor merely answered: "I swear to 
you that if nothing would save the princess and her 
unborn child except my berries, and if she were the 
last woman upon the earth, she should not have any 

22O Mythology of the British Islands 

of them." Whereupon Diarmait fought the Fomor, 
and, after much trouble, killed him. 

It was reported to Finn that the guardian of the 
magic quicken-tree lived no longer, and he guessed 
that Diarmait must have killed him; so he came 
down to the place with seven battalions of the 
Fenians to look for him. By this time, Diarmait 
had abandoned his own hut and taken possession of 
that built by the Fomor among the branches of the 
magic quicken. He was sitting in it with Grainne 
when Finn and his men came and camped at the 
foot of the tree, to wait till the heat of noon had 
passed before beginning their search. 

To beguile the time, Finn called for his chess- 
board and challenged his son Ossian to a game. 
They played until Ossian had only one more 

4 'One move would make you a winner," said 
Finn to him, " but I challenge you and all the 
Fenians to guess it." 

Only Diarmait, who had been looking down 
through the branches upon the players, knew the 
move. He could not resist dropping a berry on to 
the board, so deftly that it hit the very chess-man 
which Ossian ought to move in order to win. 
Ossian took the hint, moved it, and won. A second 
and a third game were played; and in each case the 
same thing happened. Then Finn felt sure that 
the berries that had prompted Ossian must have 
been thrown by Diarmait. 

He called out, asking Diarmait if he were there, 
and the Fenian hero, who never spoke an untruth, 

Finn and the Fenians 221 

answered that he was. So the quicken-tree was 
surrounded by armed men, just as the fenced hut in 
the woods had been. But, again, things happened in 
the same way; for Angus of the Brugh took away 
Grainne wrapped in the invisible magic cloak, while 
Diarmait, walking to the end of a thick branch, 
cleared the circle of Fenians at a bound, and 
escaped untouched 

This was the end of the famous " Pursuit"; for 
Angus came as ambassador to Finn, urging him 
to become reconciled to the fugitives, and all the 
best of the Fenians begged Finn to consent. So 
Diarmait and Grainne were allowed to return in 

But Finn never really forgave, and, soon after, he 
urged Diarmait to go out to the chase of the wild 
boar of Benn Gulban 1 . Diarmait killed the boar 
without getting any hurt; for, like the Greek 
Achilles, he was invulnerable, save in his heel alone. 
Finn, who knew this, told him to measure out the 
length of the skin with his bare feet. Diarmait did 
so. Then Finn, declaring that he had measured it 
wrongly, ordered him to tread it again in the op- 
posite direction. This was against the lie of the 
bristles; and one of them pierced Diarmait's heel, 
and inflicted a poisoned and mortal wound. 

This " Pursuit of Diarmait and Grainne ", which 
has been told at such length, marks in some degree 
the climax of the Fenian power, after which it began 
to decline towards its end. The friends of Diarmait 
never forgave the treachery with which Finn had 

1 Now called Benbulben. It is near Sligo. 

222 Mythology of the British Islands 

compassed his death. The ever-slumbering rivalry 
between Goll and his Clann Morna and Finn and 
his Clann Baoisgne began to show itself as open 
enmity. Quarrels arose, too, between the Fenians 
and the High- Kings of Ireland, which culminated 
at last in the annihilation of the Fianna at the battle 
of Gabhra \ 

This is said to have been fought in A.D. 284. 
Finn himself had perished a year before it, in a 
skirmish with rebellious Fenians at the Ford of 
Brea on the Boyne. King Cormac the Magnificent, 
Grainne's father, was also dead. It was between 
Finn's grandson Oscar and Cormac 's son Cairbr6 
that war broke out. This mythical battle was as 
fiercely waged as that of Arthurs last fight at 
Camlan. Oscar slew Cairbre, and was slain by him. 
Almost all the Fenians fell, as well as all Cairbr6's 

Only two of the greater Fenian figures survived. 
One was Caoilte, whose swiftness of foot saved 
him at the end when all was lost. The famous 
story, called the " Dialogue of the Elders ", represents 
him discoursing to St. Patrick, centuries after, of 
the Fenians' wonderful deeds. Having lost his 
friends of the heroic age, he is said to have cast 
in his lot with the Tuatha D6 Danann. He fought 
in a battle, with Ilbhreach son of Marianndn, against 
Lr himself, and killed the ancient sea-god with his 
own hand. 2 The tale represents him taking posses- 
sion of Ler's fairy palace of Sfdh Fionnechaidh, 
after which we know no more of him, except that 

i Pronounced Gavra, * See O'Gradv's Silva Gadelica* 

Finn and the Fenians 223 

he has taken rank in the minds of the Irish pea- 
santry as one of, and a ruler among, the Sfdhe. 

The other was Ossian, who did not fight at 
Gabhra, for, long before, he had taken the great 
journey which most heroes of mythology take, to 
that bourne from which no ordinary mortal ever 
returns. Like Cuchulainn, it was upon the invita- 
tion of a goddess that he went. The Fenians were 
hunting near Lake Killarney when a lady of more 
than human beauty came to them, and told them 
that her name was Niamh 1 , daughter of the Son 
of the Sea. The Gaelic poet, Michael Comyn, who, 
in the eighteenth century, rewove the ancient story 
into his own words, 2 describes her in just the same 
way as one of the old bards would have done : 

" A royal crown was on her head ; 
And a brown mantle of precious silk, 
Spangled with stars of red gold, 
Covering her shoes down to the grass. 

" A gold ring was hanging down 
From each yellow curl of her golden hair; 
Her eyes, blue, clear, and cloudless, 
Like a dew-drop on the top of the grass. 

" Redder were her cheeks than the rose, 
Fairer was her visage than the swan upon the wave, 
And more sweet was the taste of her balsam lips 
Than honey mingled thro' red wine. 

1 Pronounced Nee-av. 

2 The Lay of Oisin in the Land of Youth, translated by. Brian O'Looney for 
the Ossianic Society Transactions > Vol. IV. A fine modern poem on the same 
subject is W. B. Yeats' Wanderings of Oisin, 

224 Mythology of the British Islands 

" A garment, wide, long, and smooth 
Covered the white steed, 
There was a comely saddle of red gold, 
And her right hand held a bridle with a golden bit. 

" Four shoes well-shaped were under him, 
Of the yellow gold of the purest quality; 
A silver wreath was on the back of his head, 
And there was not in the world a steed better." 

Such was Niamh of the Golden Hair, Mananndn's 
daughter; and it is small wonder that, when she 
chose Ossian from among the sons of men to be her 
lover, all Finn's supplications could not keep him. 
He mounted behind her on her fairy horse, and 
they rode across the land to the sea-shore, and then 
over the tops of the waves. As they went, she 
described the country of the gods to him in just the 
same terms as Mananndn himself had pictured it 
to Bran, son of Febal, as Mider had painted it to 
Etain, and as everyone that went there limned it 
to those that stayed at home on earth. 

" It is the most delightful country to be found 
Of greatest repute under the sun; 
Trees drooping with fruit and blossom, 
And foliage growing on the tops of boughs. 

u Abundant, there, are honey and wine, 
And everything that eye has beheld, 
There will not come decline on thee with lapse of time. 
Death or decay thou wilt not see." 

As they went they saw wonders. Fairy palaces with 

Finn and the Fenians 225 

bright sun-bowers and lime-white walls appeared on 
the surface of the sea. At one of these they halted, 
and Ossian, at Niamh's request, attacked a fierce 
Fomor who lived there, and set free a damsel of 
the Tuatha D6 Danann whom he kept imprisoned 
He saw a hornless fawn leap from wave to wave, 
chased by one of those strange hounds of Celtic 
myth which are pure white, with red ears. At last 
they reached the " Land of the Young ", and there 
Ossian dwelt with Niamh for three hundred years 
before he remembered Erin and the Fenians. Then 
a great wish came upon him to see his own country 
and his own people again, and Niamh gave him 
leave to go, and mounted him upon a fairy steed 
for the journey. One thing alone she made him 
swear not to let his feet touch earthly soil Ossian 
promised, and reached Ireland on the wings of the 
wind. But, like the children of Lr at the end of 
their penance, he found all changed. He asked 
for Finn and the Fenians, and was told that they 
were the names of people who had lived long ago, 
and whose deeds were written of in old books. The 
Battle of Gabhra had been fought, and St. Patrick 
had come to Ireland, and made all things new. The 
very forms of men had altered; they seemed dwarfs 
compared with the giants of his day. Seeing three 
hundred of them trying in vain to raise a marble 
slab, he rode up to them in contemptuous kindness, 
and lifted it with one hand. But, as he did so, the 
golden saddle-girth broke with the strain, and he 
touched the earth with his feet The fairy horse 
vanished, and Ossian rose from the ground, no 

(B319) P 

226 Mythology of the British Islands 

longer divinely young and fair and strong, but a 
blind, gray-haired, withered old man. 

A number of spirited ballads 1 tell how Ossian, 
stranded in his old age upon earthly soil, unable to 
help himself or find his own food, is taken by St. 
Patrick into his house to be converted. The saint 
paints to him in the brightest colours the heaven 
which may be his own if he will but repent, and 
in the darkest the hell in which he tells him his 
old comrades now lie in anguish. Ossian replies 
to the saint's arguments, entreaties, and threats in 
language which is extraordinarily frank. He will 
not believe that heaven could be closed to the 
Fenians if they wished to enter it, or that God 
himself would not be proud to claim friendship 
with Finn. And if it be not so, what is the use 
to him of eternal life where there is no hunting, 
or wooing fair women, or listening to the songs 
and tales of bards? No, he will go to the Fenians, 
whether they sit at the feast or in the fire; and so 
he dies as he had lived. 

i See the Transactions of the Ossianic Society. They are generally called the 
Dialogues of Oisin and Patrick. 



In spite, however, of the wide- spread popularity 
of the ballads that took the form of dialogues be- 
tween Ossian and Patrick, certain traditions say 
that the saint succeeded in converting the hero. 
Caoilt6, the other great surviving Fenian, was also 
represented as having gladly exchanged his pagan 
lore for the faith and salvation offered him. We 
may see the same influence on foot in the later 
legends concerning the Red Branch Champions. It 
was the policy of the first Christianizers of Ireland 
to describe the loved heroes of their still half- 
heathen flocks as having handed in their submission 
to the new creed. The tales about Conchobar and 
Cuchulainn were amended, to prove that those very 
pagan personages had been miraculously brought to 
accept the gospel at the last. An entirely new story 
told how the latter hero was raised from the dead 
by Saint Patrick that he might bear witness of the 
truth of Christianity to Laogaire the Second, King 
of Ireland, which he did with such fervour and 
eloquence that the sceptical monarch was con- 
vinced 1 

i The story, contained in the Book of the Dun Cow, is called The Phantom 
Chariot. It has been translated by Mr. O'Beirne Crowe, and is included in Miss 
l's Cuchulinn Saga. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

Daring attempts were also made to change the 
Tuatha D6 Danann from pagan gods into Christian 
saints, but these were by no means so profitable as 
the policy pursued towards the more human-seeming 
heroes. With one of them alone, was success im- 
mediate and brilliant. Brigit, the goddess of fire, 
poetry, and the hearth, is famous to-day as Saint 
Bridget, or Bride. Most popular of all the Irish 
saints, she can still be easily recognized as the 
daughter of the Dagda. Her Christian attributes, 
almost all connected with fire, attest her pagan 
origin. 1 She was born at sunrise; a house in which 
she dwelt blazed into a flame which reached to 
heaven; a pillar of fire rose from her head when 
she took the veil; and her breath gave new life to 
the dead. As with the British goddess Sul, wor- 
shipped at Bath, who the first century Latin writer 
Solinus 2 tells us " ruled over the boiling springs, 
and at her altar there flamed a perpetual fire which 
never whitened into ashes, but hardened into a 
stony mass ", the sacred flame on her shrine at 
Kildare was never allowed to go out. It was ex- 
tinguished once, in the thirteenth century, but was 
relighted, and burnt with undying glow until the 
suppression of the monasteries by Henry the Eighth. 
This sacred fire might not be breathed on by the 
impure human breath. For nineteen nights it was 
tended by her nuns, but on the twentieth night it 
was left untouched, and kept itself alight miracu- 
lously. With so little of her essential character 

1 See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 269-271. 
* Caius Julius Solinus, known as Polyhistor, chap. XXIV. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 229 

and ritual changed, it is small wonder that the 
half-pagan, half-Christian Irish gladly accepted the 
new saint in the stead of the old goddess. 

Doubtless a careful examination of Irish hagi- 
ology would result in the discovery of many other 
saints whose names and attributes might render 
them suspect of previous careers as pagan gods. 
But their acceptation was not sufficiently general to 
do away with the need of other means of counter- 
acting the still living influence of the Gaelic Pan- 
theon. Therefore a fresh school of euhemerists 
arose to prove that the gods were never even saints, 
but merely worldly men who had once lived and 
ruled in Erin. Learned monks worked hard to 
construct a history of Ireland from the Flood down- 
wards. Mr. Eugene O'Curry has compiled from 
the various pedigrees they elaborated, and inserted 
into the books of Ballymote, Lecan, and Leinster 
an amazing genealogy which shows how, not merely 
the Tuatha D6 Danann, but also the Fir Bolgs, the 
Fomors, the Milesians, and the races of Partholon 
and Nemed were descended from Noah. Japhet, 
the patriarch's son, was the father of Magog, from 
whom came two lines, the first being the Milesians, 
while the second branched out into all the other 
races. 1 

Having once worked the gods, first into universal 
history, and then into the history of Ireland, it was 
an easy matter to supply them with dates of birth 
and death, local habitations, and places of burial 

1 It is appended to his translation of the tale of the Exile of the Children of 
Usnach in Atlantis, Vol. Ill, 

230 Mythology of the British Islands 

We are told with precision exactly how long Nuada, 
the Dagda, Lugh, and the others reigned at Tara. 
The barrows by the Boyne provided them with 
comfortable tombs. Their enemies, the Fomors, 
became real invaders who were beaten in real 
battles. Thus it was thought to make plain prose 
of their divinities. 

It is only fair, however, to these early euhemerists 
to say that they have their modern disciples. There 
are many writers, of recognized authority upon their 
subjects, who, in dealing with the history of Ireland 
or the composition of the British race, claim to find 
real peoples in the tribes mentioned in Gaelic myth. 
Unfortunately, the only point they agree upon is 
the accepted one that the "Milesians" were Aryan 
Celts. They are divided upon the question of the 
" Fir Bolgs ", in whom some see the pre- Aryan 
tribes, while others, led astray by the name, regard 
them as Belgic Gauls; and over the really mytho- 
logical races they run wild. In the Tuatha D6 
Danann are variously found Gaels, Picts, Danes, 
Scandinavians, Ligurians, and Finns, while the 
Fomors rest under the suspicion of having been 
Iberians, Moors, Romans, Finns, Goths, or Teutons. 
As for the people of Partholon and Nemed, they 
have even been explained as men of the Palaeolithic 
Age. This chaos of opinion was fortunately avoided 
by the native annalists, who had no particular views 
upon the question of race, except that everybody 
came from "Spain". 

Of course there were dissenters from this pre- 
vailing mania for euhemerization. As late as the 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 231 

tenth century, a poet called Eochaid OTlynn, writing 
of the Tuatha D6 Danann, at first seems to hesitate 
whether to ascribe humanity or divinity to them, 
and at last frankly avows their godhead. In his 
poem, preserved in the Book of Ballymote, 1 he 
says : 

" Though they came to learned Erinn 
Without buoyant, adventurous ships, 
No man in creation knew 
Whether they were of the earth or of the sky. 

" If they were diabolical demons, 
They came from that woeful expulsion; 2 
If they were of a race of tribes and nations, 
If they were human, they were of the race of Beothach." 

Then he enumerates them in due succession, and 
ends by declaring: 

" Though I have treated of these deities in their order, 
Yet I have not adored them ". 

One may surmise with probability that the 
common people agreed rather with the poet than 
with the monk. Pious men in monasteries might 
write what they liked, but mere laymen would not 
be easily persuaded that their cherished gods had 
never been anything more than men like them- 
selves. Probably they said little, but acted in 
secret according to their inherited ideas. Let it 
be granted, for the sake of peace, that Goibniu was 
only a man; none the less, his name was known 
to be uncommonly effective in an incantation. This 

i Sec Cusack's History of Ireland, pp. 160-162. f I.e. from Heaven. 

2 $2 Mythology of the British Islands 

applied equally to Diancecht, and invocations to 
both of them are contained in some verses which an 
eighth-century Irish monk wrote on the margin of 
a manuscript still preserved at St. Gall, in Switzer- 
land. Some prescriptions of Diancecht's have come 
down to us, but it must be admitted that they 
hardly differ from those current among ordinary 
mediaeval physicians. Perhaps, after that unfortu- 
nate spilling of the herbs that grew out of Miach's 
body, he had to fall back upon empirical research. 
He invented a porridge for " the relief of ailments 
of the body, as cold, phlegm, throat cats, and the 
presence of living things in the body, as worms"; 
it was compounded of hazel buds, dandelion, chick- 
weed, sorrel, and oatmeal; and was to be taken 
every morning and evening. He also prescribed 
against the effects of witchcraft and the fourteen 
diseases of the stomach. 

Goibniu, in addition to his original character as 
the divine smith and sorcerer, gained a third repu- 
tation among the Irish as a great builder and 
bridge-maker. As such he is known as the Gobhan 
Saer, that is, Goibniu the Architect, and marvellous 
tales, current all over Ireland attest his prowess. 

" Men call'd him Gobhan Saer, and many a tale 
Yet lingers in the by-ways of the land 

Of how he cleft the rock, or down the vale 
Led the bright river, child-like, in his hand : 

Of how on giant ships he spread great sail, 
And many marvels else by him first plann'd ", 

writes a poet of modern Ireland. 1 Especially were 

1 Thomas D'Arcy M'Gee: Poems, p. 78, "The Gobhan Saer". 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 233 

the " round towers " attributed to him, and the 
Christian clerics appropriated his popularity by de- 
scribing him as having been the designer of their 
churches. He used, according to legend, to wander 
over the country, clad, like the Greek Hephaestus, 
whom he resembles, in working dress, seeking com- 
missions and adventures. His works remain in the 
cathedrals and churches of Ireland; and, with regard 
to his adventures, many strange legends are still, 
or were until very recently, current upon the lips 
of old people in remote parts of Ireland. 

Some of these are, as might have been expected, 
nothing more than half-understood recollections of 
the ancient mythology. In them appear as char- 
acters others of the old, yet not quite forgotten gods 
Lugh, Mananndn, and Balor names still remem- 
bered as those of long-past druids, heroes, and kings 
of Ireland in the misty olden time. 

One or two of them are worth re- telling. Mr. 
William Larminie, collecting folk-tales in Achill 
Island, took one from the lips of an aged peasant 
which tells in its confused way what might almost 
be called the central incident of Gaelic mythology, 
the mysterious birth of the sun-god from demoniac 
parentage, and his eventual slaying of his grand- 
father when he came to full age. 1 

Gobhan the Architect and his son, young Go- 
bhan, runs the tale, were sent for by Balor of the 
Blows to build him a palace. They built it so well 
that Balor decided never to let them leave his king- 
dom alive, for fear they should build another one 

1 Larminie: West Irish Folk*Talts % pp. 1-9. 

234 Mythology of the British Islands 

equally good for someone else. He therefore had 
all the scaffolding removed from round the palace 
while they were still on the top, with the intention 
of leaving them up there to die of hunger. But, 
when they discovered this, they began to destroy 
the roof, so that Balor was obliged to let them come 

He, none the less, refused to allow them to return 
to Ireland. The crafty Gobhan, however, had his 
plan ready. He told Balor that the injury that had 
been done to the palace roof could not be repaired 
without special tools, which he had left behind him 
at home. Balor declined to let either old Gobhan 
or young Gobhan go back to fetch them; but he 
offered to send his own son. Gobhan gave Balor's 
son directions for the journey. He was to travel 
until he came to a house with a stack of corn at 
the door. Entering it, he would find a woman with 
one hand and a child with one eye. 

Balor's son found the house, and asked the woman 
for the tools. She expected him; for it had been 
arranged between Gobhan and his wife what should 
be done, if Balor refused to let him return. She 
took Balor's son to a huge chest, and told him that 
the tools were at the bottom of it, so far down that 
she could not reach them, and that he must get into 
the chest, and pick them up himself. But, as soon 
as he was safely inside, she shut the lid on him, 
telling him that he would have to stay there until 
his father allowed old Gobhan and young Gobhan 
to come home with their pay. And she sent the 
same message to Balor himself. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 235 

There was an exchange of prisoners, Balor giving 
the two Gobhans their pay and a ship to take them 
home, and Gobhan's wife releasing Balor's son. But, 
before the two builders went, Balor asked them 
whom he should now employ to repair his palace. 
Old Gobhan told him that, next to himself, there 
was no workman in Ireland better than one Gavid- 
jeen Go. 

When Gobhan got back to Ireland, he sent Gavid- 
jeen Go to Balor. But he gave him a piece of 
advice to accept as pay only one thing: Balor's 
gray cow, which would fill twenty barrels at one 
milking. Balor agreed to this, but, when he gave 
the cow to Gavidjeen Go to take back with him to 
Ireland, he omitted to include her byre-rope, which 
was the only thing that would keep her from return- 
ing to her original owner. 

The gray cow gave so much trouble to Gavidjeen 
Go by her straying, that he was obliged to hire mili- 
tary champions to watch her during the day and 
bring her safely home at night. The bargain made 
was that Gavidjeen Go should forge the champion 
a sword for his pay, but that, if he lost the cow, his 
life was to be forfeited. 

At last, a certain warrior called Clan was unlucky 
enough to let the cow escape. He followed her 
tracks down to the sea-shore and right to the edge 
of the waves, and there he lost them altogether. He 
was tearing his hair in his perplexity, when he saw 
a man rowing a coracle. The man, who was no 
other than ManannAn son of Lr, came in close to 
the shore, and asked what was the matter. 

236 Mythology of the British Islands 

Cian told him. 

11 What would you give to anyone who would 
take you to the place where the gray cow is?" asked 

" I have nothing to give/ 1 replied Cian. 

"All I ask," said Mananndn, "is half of whatever 
you gain before you come back." 

Cian agreed to that willingly enough, and Man- 
anndn told him to get into the coracle. In the wink 
of an eye, he had landed him in Balor's kingdom, 
the realm of the cold, where they roast no meat, but 
eat their food raw. Cian was not used to this diet, 
so he lit himself a fire, and began to cook some food. 
Balor saw the fire, and came down to it, and he was 
so pleased that he appointed Cian to be his fire- 
maker and cook. 

Now Balor had a daughter, of whom a druid had 
prophesied that she would, some day, bear a son who 
would kill his grandfather. Therefore, like Acrisius, 
in Greek legend, he shut her up in a tower, guarded 
by women, and allowed her to see no man but him- 
self. One day, Cian saw Balor go to the tower. He 
waited until he had come back, and then went to 
explore. He had the gift of opening locked doors 
and shutting them again after him. When he got 
inside, he lit a fire, and this novelty so delighted 
Balor's daughter that she invited him to visit her 
again. After this in the Achill islander's quaint 
phrase "he was ever coming there, until a child 
happened to her." Balor's daughter gave the baby 
to Cian to take away. She also gave him the byre* 
rope which belonged to the gray cow. 


From the Drawing by H. R. Millar 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 237 

Cian was in great danger now, for Balor had 
found out about the child. He led the gray cow 
away with the rope to the sea-shore, and waited for 
Mananndn. The Son of Ler had told Cian that, 
when he was in any difficulty, he was to think of 
him, and he would at once appear. Cian thought 
of him now, and, in a moment, Mananndn appeared 
with his coracle. Cian got into the boat, with the 
baby and the gray cow, just as Balor, in hot pursuit, 
came down to the beach. 

Balor, by his incantations, raised a great storm to 
drown them; but Mananndn, whose druidism was 
greater, stilled it. Then Balor turned the sea into 
fire, to burn them; but Mananndn put it out with a 

When they were safe back in Ireland, Manannin 
asked Cian for his promised reward. 

" I have gained nothing but the boy, and I cannot 
cut him in two, so I will give him to you whole/' he 

"That is what I was wanting all the time," said 
Mananndn; " when he grows up, there will be no 
champion equal to him." 

So Mananndn baptized the boy, calling him "the 
Dul-Dauna". This name, meaning " Blind-Stub- 
born", is certainly a curious corruption of the original 
loldanach 1 " Master of all Knowledge". When the 
boy had grown up, he went one day to the sea- 
shore. A ship came past, in which was a man. 
The traditions of Donnybrook Fair are evidently 
prehistoric, for the boy, without troubling to ask who 

i Pronounced flddna. 

238 Mythology of the British Islands 

the stranger was, took a dart "out of his pocket", 
hurled it, and hit him. The man in the boat happened 
to be Balor. Thus, in accordance with the prophecy, 
he was slain by his grandson, who, though the folk- 
tale does not name him, was obviously Lugh. 

Another version of the same legend, collected by 
the Irish scholar O'Donovan on the coast of Donegal, 
opposite Balor's favourite haunt, Tory Island, is 
interesting as completing the one just narrated. 1 In 
this folk-tale, Goibniu is called Gavida, and is made 
one of three brothers, the other two being called 
Mac Kineely and Mac Samthainn. They were chiefs 
of Donegal, smiths and farmers, while Balor was a 
robber who harassed the mainland from his strong- 
hold on Tory Island. The gray cow belonged to 
Mac Kineely, and Balor stole it. Its owner deter- 
mined to be revenged, and, knowing the prediction 
concerning Balor's death at the hands of an as yet 
unborn grandson, he persuaded a kindly fairy to 
spirit him in female disguise to Tor Mor, where 
Balor's daughter, who was called Ethnea, was kept 
imprisoned. The result of this expedition was not 
merely the one son necessary to fulfil the prophecy, 
but three. This apparent superfluity was fortunate; 
for Balor drowned two of them, the other being 
picked out of the sea by the same fairy who had 
been incidentally responsible for his birth, and 
handed over to his father, Mac Kineely, to be 
brought up. Shortly after this, Balor managed to 
capure Mac Kineely, and, in retaliation for the wrong 
done him, chopped off his head upon a large white 

i Jt is told in Rhys's Hibbert Lectures, pp. 314-317, 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 239 

stone, still known locally as the " Stone of Kineely". 
Satisfied with this, and quite unaware that one of 
his daughter's children had been saved from death, 
and was now being brought up as a smith by Gavida, 
Balor went on with his career of robbery, varying it 
by visits to the forge to purchase arms. One day, 
being there during Gavida's absence, he began boast- 
ing to the young assistant of how he had compassed 
Mac Kineely's death. He never finished the story, 
for Lugh which was the boy's name snatched a 
red-hot iron from the fire, and thrust it into Balor's 
eye, and through his head. 

Thus, in these two folk-tales, 1 gathered in dif- 
ferent parts of Ireland, at different times, by 
different persons, survives quite a mass of mytho- 
logical detail only to be found otherwise in 
ancient manuscripts containing still more ancient 
matter. Crystallized in them may be found the 
names of six members of the old Gaelic Pantheon, 
each filling the same part as of old. Goibniu has 
not lost his mastery of smithcraft; Balor is still the 
Fomorian king of the cold regions of the sea; his 
daughter Ethniu becomes, by Cian, the mother of 
the sun-god; Lugh, who still bears his old title of 
loldanach, though it is strangely corrupted into a 
name meaning almost the exact opposite, is still 
fostered by Mananndn, Son of the Sea, and in the 
end grows up to destroy his grandfather by a blow 
in the one vulnerable place, his death-dealing eye. 
Perhaps, too, we may claim to see a genuine, though 

For still other folk-tale versions of this same myth see Curtin's Hero Tales of 

240 Mythology of the British Islands 

jumbled tradition, in the Fomor-like deformities of 
Cobban's wife and child, and in the story of the 
gray cow and her byre-rope, which recalls that of 
the Dagda's black-maned heifer, Ocean. 

The memories of the peasantry still hold many 
stories of Lugh, as well as of Angus, and others of 
the old gods. But, next to the Gobhan Saer, the 
one whose fame is still greatest is that ever-potent 
and ever-popular figure, the great Mananndn. 

The last, perhaps, to receive open adoration, he is 
represented by kindly tradition as having been still 
content to help and watch over the people who had 
rejected and ceased to worship him. Up to the 
time of St. Columba, he was the special guardian 
of Irishmen in foreign parts, assisting them in their 
dangers and bringing them home safe. For the 
peasantry, too, he caused favourable weather and 
good crops. His fairy subjects tilled the ground while 
men slept. But this is said to have come to an end 
at last. Saint Columba, having broken his golden 
chalice, gave it to a servant to get repaired. On 
his way, the servant was met by a stranger, who 
asked him where he was going. The man told 
him, and showed him the chalice. The stranger 
breathed upon it, and, at once, the broken parts re- 
united. Then he begged him to return to his master, 
give him the chalice, and tell him that Mananndn 
son of Lr, who had mended it, desired to know in 
very truth whether he would ever attain paradise 
"Alas," said the ungrateful saint, " there is no for- 
giveness for a man who does such works as this!" 
The servant went back with the answer, and Man- 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 241 

anndn, when he heard it, broke out into indignant 
lament. "Woe is me, Mananndn mac Lr! for 
years I've helped the Catholics of Ireland, but I'll 
do it no more, till they're as weak as water. I'll go 
to the gray waves in the Highlands of Scotland/' 1 

And there he remained. For, unless the charm- 
ing stories of Miss Fiona Macleod are mere beautiful 
imaginings and nothing more, he is not unknown 
even to-day among the solitary shepherds and fishers 
of "the farthest Hebrides". In the Contemporary 
Review for October, I9O2, 2 she tells how an old 
man of four-score years would often be visited in 
his shieling by a tall, beautiful stranger, with a crest 
on his head, "like white canna blowing in the wind, 
but with a blueness in it", and "a bright, cold, curl- 
ing flame under the soles of his feet ". The man 
told him many things, and prophesied to him the 
time of his death. Generally, the stranger's hands 
were hidden in the folds of the white cloak he wore, 
but, once, he moved to touch the shepherd, who saw 
then that his flesh was like water, with sea-weed 
floating among the bones. So that Murdo Mac I an 
knew that he could be speaking with none other 
than the Son of the Sea. 

Nor is he yet quite forgotten in his own Island of 
Man, of which local tradition says he was the first 
inhabitant. He is also described as its king, who 
kept it from invasion by his magic. He would cause 
mists to rise at any moment and conceal the island, 

1 A Donegal story, collected by Mr. David Fitzgerald and published in tht 
Revue Ccltique, Vol. IV, p. 177. 
J The paper is called "Sea-Magic and Running Water ". 


242 Mythology of the British Islands 

and by the same glamour he could make one man 
seem like a hundred, and little chips of wood which 
he threw into the water to appear like ships of war. 
It is no wonder that he held his kingdom against 
all-comers, until his sway was ended, like that of 
the other Gaelic gods, by the arrival of Saint 
Patrick. After this, he seems to have declined 
into a traditionary giant who used to leap from 
Peel Castle to Contrary Head for exercise, or hurl 
huge rocks, upon which the mark of his hand can 
still be seen. It is said that he took no tribute 
from his subjects, or worshippers except bundles of 
green rushes, which were placed every Midsummer 
Eve upon two mountain peaks, one called Warre- 
field in olden days, but now South Barrule, and 
the other called Man, and not now to be identified. 
His grave, which is thirty yards long, is pointed 
out, close to Peel Castle. The most curious legend 
connected with him, however, tells us that he had 
three legs, on which he used to travel at a great 
pace. How this was done may be seen from the 
arms of the island, on which are pictured his three 
limbs, joined together, and spread out like the 
spokes of a wheel. 1 

An Irish tradition tells us that, when Mananndn 
left Ireland for Scotland, the vacant kingship of the 
gods or fairies was taken by one Mac Moineanta, 
to the great grief of those who had known Man- 
anndn. 2 Perhaps this great grief led to Mac Moine- 
anta's being deposed, for the present king of the 

1 Moore : Folklore of the hit of Man. 

a See an article in the Dublin University Maganine for June, 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 243 

Irish fairies is Finvarra, the same Fionnbharr to 
whom the Dagda allotted the sidh of Meadha after 
the conquest of the Tuatha De Danann by the 
Milesians, and who takes a prominent part in the 
Fenian stories. So great is the persistence of 
tradition in Ireland that this hill of Meadha, now 
spelt Knockma, is still considered to be the abode 
of him and his queen, Onagh. Numberless stories 
are told about Finvarra, including, of course, that 
very favourite Celtic tale of the stolen bride, and 
her recapture from the fairies by the siege and 
digging up of the sidh in which she was held 
prisoner. Finvarra, like Mider of Bri Leith, carried 
away a human Etain the wife, not of a high king, 
but of an Irish lord. The modern Eochaid Airem, 
having heard an invisible voice tell him where he 
was to look for his lost bride, gathered all his 
workmen and labourers and proceeded to demolish 
Knockma. Every day they almost dug it up, but 
every night the breach was found to have been 
repaired by fairy workmen of Finvarra's. This 
went on for three days, when the Irish lord thought 
of the well-known device of sanctifying the work 
of excavation by sprinkling the turned-up earth 
with salt Needless to say, it succeeded. Finvarra 
gave back the bride, still in the trance into which 
he had thrown her; and the deep cut into the 
fairy hill still remains to furnish proof to the in- 
credulous. 1 

Finvarra does not always appear, however, in 

1 The story is among those told by Lady Wilde in her Ancient Legends of 
(remand, Vol. I, pp. 77-8?. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

such unfriendly guise. He was popularly reputed 
to have under his special care the family of the 
Kirwans of Castle Racket, on the northern slope 
of Knockma. Owing to his benevolent influence, 
the castle cellars never went dry, nor did the 
quality of the wine deteriorate. Besides the wine- 
cellar, Finvarra looked after the stables, and it 
was owing to the exercise that he and his fairy 
followers gave the horses by night that Mr. John 
Kirwan's racers were so often successful on the 
Curragh. That such stories could have passed 
current as fact, which they undoubtedly did, is 
excellent proof of how late and how completely a 
mythology may survive among the uncultured. 1 

Finvarra rules to-day over a wide realm of fairy 
folk. Many of these, again, have their own vassal 
chieftains, forming a tribal hierarchy such as must 
have existed in the Celtic days of Ireland. Fin- 
varra and Onagh are high king and queen, but, 
under them, Cliodna 2 is tributary queen of Munster, 
and rules from a sidh near Mallow in County Cork, 
while, under her again, are Aoibhinn 8 , queen of the 
fairies of North Munster, and Ain6, queen of the 
fairies of South Munster. These names form but 
a single instance. A map of fairy Ireland could 
without much difficulty be drawn, showing, with 
almost political exactness, the various kingdoms of 
the Sfdhe. 

Far less easy, however, would be the task of 
ascertaining the origin and lineage of these fabled 

1 Dublin University Magatin*, June, 1864. 

* Pronounced CUena. * Pronounced 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 245 

beings. Some of them can still be traced as older 
gods and goddesses. In the eastern parts of Ireland, 
Badb and her sisters have become " banshees" who 
wail over deaths not necessarily found in battle. 
Aynia, deemed the most powerful fairy in Ulster, 
and Ain6, queen of South Munster, are perhaps 
the same person, the mysterious and awful goddess 
once adored as Anu, or Danu. Of the two, 
it is Am6 who especially seems to carry on the 
traditions of the older Anu, worshipped, according 
to the " Choice of Names", in Munster as a goddess 
of prosperity and abundance. Within living memory, 
she was propitiated by a magical ritual upon every 
Saint John's Eve, to ensure fertility during the 
coming year. The villagers round her stdh of Cnoc 
Ain (Knockainy) carried burning bunches of hay 
or straw upon poles to the top of the hill, and thence 
dispersed among the fields, waving these torches 
over the crops and cattle. This fairy, or goddess 
was held to be friendly, and, indeed, more than 
friendly, to men. Whether or not she were the 
mother of the gods, she is claimed as first ancestress 
by half a dozen famous Irish families. 

Among her children was the famous Earl Gerald, 
offspring of her alliance with the fourth Earl of 
Desmond, known as " The Magician ". As in the 
well-known story of the Swan-maidens, the magician- 
earl is said to have stolen Ain's cloak while she 
was bathing, and refused to return it unless she 
became his bride. But, in the end, he lost her. 
Ain6 had warned her husband never to show sur- 
prise at anything done by their son ; but a wonderful 

246 Mythology of the British Islands 

feat which he performed made the earl break this 
condition, and Ain6 was obliged, by fairy law, to 
leave him. But, though she had lost her husband, 
she was not separated from her son, who was re- 
ceived into the fairy world after his death, and now 
lives under the surface of Lough Gur, in County 
Limerick, waiting, like the British Arthur, for the 
hour to strike in which he shall lead forth his war- 
riors to drive the foreigners from Ireland. But this 
will not be until, by riding round the lake once in 
every seventh year, he shall have worn his horse's 
silver shoes as thin as a cat's ear. 1 

Not only the tribe of Danu, but heroes of the 
other mythical cycles swell the fairy host to-day. 
Donn, son of Mil6, who was drowned before ever 
he set foot on Irish soil, lives at " Bonn's House", 
a line of sand-hills in the Dingle Peninsula of Kerry, 
and, as late as the eighteenth century, we find him 
invoked by a local poet, half in jest, no doubt, but 
still, perhaps also a little in earnest. 2 The heroes of 
Ulster have no part in fairyland; but their enemy, 
Medb, is credited with queenly rule among the 
Sfdhe, and is held by some to have been the original 
of " Queen Mab ". Caoilt6, last of the Fenians, 
was, in spite of his leanings towards Christianity, 
enrolled among the Tuatha D6 Danann, but none 
of his kin are known there, neither Ossian, nor 
Oscar, nor even Finn himself. Yet not even to 
merely historical mortals are the gates of the gods 
necessarily closed The Barry, chief of the barony 

1 See Fitzgerald, Papular Tales of Ireland, in Vol. IV of the Revue Celtique. 

2 Dublin University Magazine, June, 1864. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 247 

of Barrymore, is said to inhabit an enchanted palace 
in Knockthierna, one of the Nagles Hills. The not 
less traditionally famous O'Donaghue, whose domain 
was near Killarney, now dwells beneath the waters 
of that lake, and may still be seen, it is said, upon 
May Day. 1 

But besides these figures, which can be traced in 
mythology or history, and others who, though all 
written record of them has perished, are obviously 
of the same character, there are numerous beings 
who suggest a different origin from that of the 
Aryan-seeming fairies. They correspond to the 
elves and trolls of Scandinavian, or the silenoi and 
satyrs of Greek myth. Such is the Leprechaun, 
who makes shoes for the fairies, and knows where 
hidden treasures are; the Gan Ceanach, or " love- 
talker ", who fills the ears of idle girls with pleasant 
fancies when, to merely mortal ideas, they should be 
busy with their work ; the Pooka, who leads travellers 
astray, or, taking the shape of an ass or mule, 
beguiles them to mount upon his back to their 
discomfiture; the Dulachan, who rides without a 
head; and other friendly or malicious sprites. 
Whence come they? A possible answer suggests 
itself. Preceding the Aryans, and surviving the 
Aryan conquest all over Europe, was a large non- 
Aryan population, which must have had its own 
gods, who would retain their worship, be revered 
by successive generations, and remain rooted to the 
soil May not these uncouth and half-developed 

1 For stories of these two Norman-Irish heroes, see Crofton Croker's Fairy 
Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. 

248 Mythology of the British Islands 

Irish Leprechauns, Pookas, and Dulachans, together 
with the Scotch Cluricanes, Brownies, and their 
kin, be no " creations of popular fancy ", but the 
dwindling figures of those darker gods of " the dark 




The descriptions and the stories of the British 
gods have hardly come down to us in so ample or 
so compact a form as those of the deities of the 
Gaels, as they are preserved in the Irish and Scot- 
tish manuscripts. They have also suffered far more 
from the sophistications of the euhemerist. Only 
in the " Four Branches of the Mabinogi" do the 
gods of the Britons appear in anything like their 
real character of supernatural beings, masters of 
magic, and untrammelled by the limitations which 
hedge in mortals. Apart from those four fragments 
of mythology, and from a very few scattered refer- 
ences in the early Welsh poems, one must search 
for them under strange disguises. Some masquerade 
as kings in Geoffrey of Monmouth's more than 
apocryphal Historia Britonum. Others have re- 
ceived an undeserved canonization, which must be 
stripped from them before they can be seen in their 
true colours. Others, again, were adopted by the 
Norman -French romancers, and turned into the 
champions of chivalry now known as Arthur's 
Knights of the Round Table. But, however dis- 
guised, their real nature can still be discerned. The 
Gaels and the Britons were but two branches of one 

252 Mythology of the British Islands 

race the Celtic. In many of the gods of the Britons 
we shall recognize, with names alike and attributes 
the same, the familiar features of the Gaelic Tuatha 
D6 Danann. 

The British gods are sometimes described as 
divided into three families the " Children of D6n ", 
the " Children of Nudd", and the " Children of 
Llyr". But these three families are really only 
two; for Nudd, or Lludd, as he is variously called, 
is himself described as a son of Beli, who was the 
husband of the goddess Don. There can be no 
doubt that Don herself is the same divine personage 
as Danu, the mother of the Tuatha D6 Danann, 
and that Beli is the British equivalent of the Gaelic 
Bil6, the universal Dis Pater who sent out the first 
Gaels from Hades to take possession of Ireland. 
With the other family, the " Children of Llyr", we 
are equally on familiar ground; for the British Llyr 
can be none other than the Gaelic sea-god Lr. 
These two families or tribes are usually regarded as 
in opposition, and their struggles seem to symbolize 
in British myth that same conflict between the 
powers of heaven, light, and life and of the sea, 
darkness, and death which are shadowed in Gaelic 
mythology in the battles between the Tuatha D6 
Danann and the Fomors. 

For the children of Don were certainly gods of 
the sky. Their names are writ large in heaven. 
The glittering W which we call " Cassiopeia's 
Chair" was to our British ancestors Llys Don, or 
11 D6n's Court"; our " Northern Crown" was Caer 
Arianrod, the "Castle of Arianrod", Don's daughter; 

The Gods of the Britons 253 

while the "Milky Way" was the "Castle of Gwydion", 
Ddn's son. 1 More than this, the greatest of her 
children, the Nudd or Lludd whom some make the 
head of a dynasty of his own, was the Zeus alike of 
the Britons and of the Gaels. His epithet of Llaw 
Ereint, that is, "of the Hand of Silver ", proves 
him the same personage as Nuada the " Silver- 
Handed ". The legend which must have existed 
to explain this peculiarity has been lost on British 
ground, but it was doubtless the same as that told 
of the Irish god. With it, and, no doubt, much else, 
has disappeared any direct account of battles fought 
by him as sky-god against Fomor-like enemies. 
But, under the faint disguise of a king of Britain, 
an ancient Welsh tale 2 records how he put an end 
to three supernatural " plagues " which oppressed 
his country. In addition to this, we find him under 
his name of Nudd described in a Welsh Triad as 
one of "the three generous heroes of the Isle of 
Britain ", while another makes him the owner of 
twenty-one thousand milch cows an expression 
which must, to the primitive mind, have implied 
inexhaustible wealth. Both help us to the con- 
ception of a god of heaven and battle, triumphant, 
and therefore rich and liberal. 8 

More tangible evidence is, however, not lacking 
to prove the wide-spread nature of his worship. A 
temple dedicated to him in Roman times under the 
name of Nodens, or Nudens, has been discovered at 

1 Lady Guest's Mabinogion, a note to Math, the Son of Mathonwy. 
* The Story of Lludd and Llevelys. See chap, xxiv " The Decline and Fall of 
the Gods ", Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 128. 

254 Mythology of the British Islands 

Lydney, on the banks of the Severn. The god is 
pictured on a plaque of bronze as a youthful deity, 
haloed like the sun, and driving a four-horsed 
chariot Flying spirits, typifying the winds, accom- 
pany him ; while his power over the sea is symbol- 
ized by attendant Tritons. 1 This was in the west of 
Britain, while, in the east, there is good reason to 
believe that he had a shrine overlooking the Thames, 
Tradition declares that St. Paul's Cathedral occu- 
pies the site of an ancient pagan temple; while the 
spot on which it stands was called, we know from 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, " Parth Lludd " by the 
Britons, and " Ludes Geat" by the Saxons. 2 

Great, however, as he probably was, Lludd, or 
Nudd occupies less space in Welsh story, as we 
have it now, than his son. Gwyn ap Nudd has 
outlived in tradition almost all his supernatural kin. 
Professor Rhys is tempted to see in him the British 
equivalent of the Gaelic Finn mac Cumhail. 3 The 
name of both alike means "white"; both are sons 
of the heaven-god ; both are famed as hunters. 
Gwyn, however, is more than that; for his game is 
man. In the early Welsh poems, he is a god of 
battle and of the dead, and, as such, fills the part of 
a psychopompos, conducting the slain into Hades, 
and there ruling over them. In later, semi- 
Christianized story he is described as " Gwyn, son 
of Nudd, whom God has placed over the brood of 
devils in Annwn, lest they should destroy the pre- 

1 See a monograph by the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst: Roman Antiquities in 
Lydney Park, Gloucestershire. 

2 Sec chap, xxiv " The Decline and Fall of the God* M , 
* fiibben Lectures^ pp. 178, 179. 

The Gods of the Britons 255 

sent race 1 ". Later again, as paganism still further 
degenerated, he came to be considered as king of 
the Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh fairies, 2 and his name 
as such has hardly yet died out of his last haunt, the 
romantic vale of Neath. He is the wild huntsman 
of Wales and the West of England, and it is his 
pack which is sometimes heard at chase in waste 
places by night. 

In his earliest guise, as a god of war and death, 
he is the subject of a poem in dialogue contained in 
the Black Book of Caermarthen. 3 Obscure, like 
most of the ancient Welsh poems, 4 it is yet a 
spirited production, and may be quoted here as a 
favourable specimen of the poetry of the early 
Cymri. In it we shall see mirrored perhaps the 
clearest figure of the British Pantheon, the " mighty 
hunter ", not of deer, but of men's souls, riding his 
demon horse, and cheering on his demon hound to 
the fearful chase. He knows when and where all 
the great warriors fell, for he gathered their souls 
upon the field of battle, and now rules over them in 
Hades, or upon some " misty mountain-top". 6 It 
describes a mythical prince, named Gwyddneu 
Garanhir, known to Welsh legend as the ruler of 
a lost country now covered by the waters of Car- 
digan Bay, asking protection of the god, who 

*So translated by Lady Guest. Professor Rhys, however, renders it, "in whom 
God has put the instinct of the demons of Annwn ". Arthurian Legend ', p. 341. 
3 Lady Guest's Mabinogion. Note to " Kulhwch and Olwen". 

3 Black Book of Caermarthen, poem xxxin. Vol. I, p. 293, of Skene's Four 
Ancient Books. 

4 I have taken the liberty of omitting a few lines whose connection with their 
context is not very apparent. 

* (Jwyn was said to specially frequent the summits of hills 

256 Mythology of the British Islands 

accords it, and then relates the story of his ex- 


A bull of conflict was he, active in dispersing an arrayed 


The ruler of hosts, indisposed to anger, 
Blameless and pure his conduct in protecting life. 


Against a hero stout was his advance, 

The ruler of hosts, disposer of wrath, 

There will be protection for thee since thou askest it 


For thou hast given me protection 
How warmly wert thou welcomed! 
The hero of hosts, from what region thou comest? 


I come from battle and conflict 

With a shield in my hand; 

Broken is the helmet by the pushing of spears. 


I will address thee, exalted man, 
With his shield in distress. 
Brave man, what is thy descent? 


Round-hoofed is my horse, the torment of battle, 
Fairy am I called, Gwyn the son of Nudd, 1 
The lover of Creurdilad, the daughter of Lludd 

1 This line is Professor Rhys's. Skene translates it: " Whilst I am called Gwyn 
the son of Nudd". 

The Gods of the Britons 257 


Since it is thou, Gwyn, an upright man, 
From thee there is no concealing: 
I am Gwyddneu Garanhir. 


Hasten to my ridge, the Tawe abode; 
Not the nearest Tawe name I to thee, 
But that Tawe which is the farthest 1 

Polished is my ring, golden my saddle and bright: 

To my sadness 

I saw a conflict before Caer Vandwy. 2 

Before Caer Vandwy a host I saw, 

Shields were shattered and ribs broken ; 

Renowned and splendid was he who made the assault 


Gwyn, son of Nudd, the hope of armies, 
Quicker would legions fall before the hoofs 
Of thy horse than broken rushes to the ground. 


Handsome my dog, and round-bodied, 

And truly the best of dogs ; 

Dormarth 3 was he, which belonged to Maelgwyn. 


Dormarth with the ruddy nose! what a gazer 
Thou art upon me because I notice 
Thy wanderings on Gwibir Vynyd. 4 

i I have here preferred Rhys's rendering: Arthurian Legend, p. 364. 

1 A name for Hades, of unknown meaning. 

8 Dormarth means " Death's Door". Rhys: Arthurian Legend \ pp. 156-158. 

4 Rhys has it : 

" Dormarth, red-nosed, ground-grazing 
On him we perceived the speed 
Of thy wandering on Cloud Mount." 

Arthurian Legend, p. 156. 
( B 219 ) & 

258 Mythology of the British Islands 


I have been in the place where was killed Gwendolen, 
The son of Ceidaw, the pillar of songs, 
When the ravens screamed over blood. 

I have been in the place where Bran was killed, 
The son of Iweridd, of far extending fame, 
When the ravens of the battle-field screamed. 

I have been where Llacheu was slain, 
The son of Arthur, extolled in songs, 
When the ravens screamed over blood. 

I have been where Meurig was killed, 
The son of Carreian, of honourable fame, 
When the ravens screamed over flesh. 

I have been where Gwallawg was killed, 
The son of Goholeth, the accomplished, 
The resister of Lloegyr, the son of Lleynawg. 

I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain, 
From the east to the north: 
I am the escort of the grave. 1 

I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain, 
From the east to the south: 
I am alive, they in death! 

A line in this poem allows us to see Gwyn in 
another and less sinister role. " The lover of 
Creurdilad, the daughter of Lludd," he calls himself; 
and an episode in the mythical romance of " Kul- 
hwch and Olwen", preserved in the Red Book of 
Hergest, gives the details of his courtship. Gwyn 
had as rival a deity called Gwyrthur ap Greidawl, 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 383. Skene translates: " I am alive, they in their 

The Gods of the Britons 259 

that is " Victor, son of Scorcher ".* These two 
waged perpetual war for Creurdilad, or Creudy- 
lad, each in turn stealing her from the other, until 
the matter was referred to Arthur, who decided that 
Creudylad should be sent back to her father, and 
that Gwyn and Gwyrthur " should fight for her 
every first of May, from henceforth until the day 
of doom, and that whichever of them should then 
be conqueror should have the maiden ". What 
satisfaction this would be to the survivor of what 
might be somewhat flippantly described as, in two 
senses, the longest engagement on record, is not 
very clear; but its mythological interpretation ap- 
pears fairly obvious. In Gwyn, god of death and 
the underworld, and in the solar deity, Gwyrthur, 
we may see the powers of darkness and sunshine, 
of winter and summer, in contest, 2 each alternately 
winning and losing a bride who would seem to 
represent the spring with its grain and flowers. 
Creudylad, whom the story of " Kulhwch and 
Olwen" calls "the most splendid maiden in the 
three islands of the mighty and in the three islands 
adjacent ", is, in fact, the British Persephond As 
the daughter of Lludd, she is child of the shining 
sky. But a different tradition must have made 
her a daughter of Llyr, the sea-god; for her name 
as such passed, through Geoffrey of Monmouth, 
to Shakespeare, in whose hands she became that 
pathetic figure, Cordelia in " King Lear". It may 
not be altogether unworthy of notice, though per- 
haps it is only a coincidence, that in some myths 

* Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 561. * Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, pp. 561-563. 

260 Mythology of the British Islands 

the Greek Persephon6 is made a daughter of Zeus 
and in others of Poseidon. 1 

Turning from the sky-god and his son, we find 
others of Don's children to have been the exponents 
of those arts of life which early races held to have 
been taught directly by the gods to men. D6n 
herself had a brother, Mth, son of a mysterious 
M^thonwy, and recognizable as a benevolent ruler 
of the underworld akin to Beli, or perhaps that god 
himself under another title, for the name Math, 
which means " coin, money, treasure ", 2 recalls that 
of Plouton, the Greek god of Hades, in his guise 
of possessor and giver of metals. It was a belief 
common to the Aryan races that wisdom, as well as 
wealth, came originally from the underworld; and 
we find Math represented, in the Mabinogi bearing 
his name, as handing on his magical lore to his 
nephew and pupil Gwydion, who, there is good 
reason to believe, was the same divine personage 
whom the Teutonic tribes worshipped as "Woden" 
and " Odin ". Thus equipped, Gwydion son of 
Don became the druid of the gods, the "master 
of illusion and phantasy ", and, not only that, but 

i Dyer : Studies of the Gods in Greece, p. 48. 

Gwyn, son of Nudd, had a brother, Edeyrn, of whom so little has come down to 
us that he finds his most suitable place in a foot-note. Unmentioned in the earliest 
Welsh legends, he first appears as a kn.ght of Arthur's court in the Red Book stories 
of " Kulhwch and Olwen", the " Dream of Rhonabwy", and "Geraint, the Son of 
Erbin". He accompanied Arthur on his expedition to Rome, and is said also to have 
slain "three most atrocious giants" at Brentenol (Brent Knoll), near Glastonbury. 
His name occurs in a catalogue of Welsh saints, where he is described as a bard, 
and the chapel of Bodedyrn, near Holy head, still stands to his honour. Modern 
readers will know him from Tennyson's Idyll of "Geraint and Enid", which 
follows very closely the Welsh romance of "Geraint, the Son of Erbin". 

Rhys who calls him "a Cambrian Pluto": Lectures on Welsh Philology \ 
p. 414. 

The Gods of the Britons 261 

the teacher of all that is useful and good, the friend 
and helper of mankind, and the perpetual fighter 
against niggardly underworld powers for the good 
gifts which they refused to allow out of their keep- 
ing. Shoulder to shoulder with him in this "holy 
war " of culture against ignorance, and light against 
darkness, stood his brothers Amaethon, god of agri- 
culture, and Govannan, a god of smithcraft identical 
with the Gaelic Giobniu. He had also a sister 
called Arianrod, or " Silver Circle ", who, as is com- 
mon in mythologies, was not only his sister, but 
also his wife. So Zeus wedded Her; and, indeed, 
it is difficult to say where otherwise the partners of 
gods are to come from. Of this connection two 
sons were born at one birth Dylan and Lieu, who 
are considered as representing the twin powers of 
darkness and light. With darkness the sea was 
inseparably connected by the Celts, and, as soon as 
the dark twin was born and named, he plunged 
headlong into his native element. " And imme- 
diately when he was in the sea," says the Mabinogi 
of Math, son of Mdthonwy, "he took its nature, 
and swam as well as the best fish that was therein. 
And for that reason was he called Dylan, the Son 
of the Wave. Beneath him no wave ever broke." 
He was killed with a spear at last by his uncle, 
Govannan, and, according to the bard Taliesin, the 
waves of Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and tke Isle of 
Man wept for him. 1 Beautiful legends grew up 
around his death. The clamour of the waves dash- 

l Book of Taliesin, XLIII. The Death-song of Dylan, Son of tke Wave, Vol. I, 
p 288 of Skene. 

262 Mythology of the British Islands 

ing upon the beach is the expression of their longing 
to avenge their son. The sound of the sea rushing 
up the mouth of the 'River Conway is still known as 
" Dylan's death-groan" 1 . A small promontory on 
the Carnarvonshire side of the Menai Straits, called 
Pwynt Maen Tylen, or Pwynt Maen Dulan y pre- 
serves his name. 2 

The other child of Gwydion and Arianrod grew 
up to become the British sun-god, Lieu Llaw 
GyfFes, the exact counterpart of the Gaelic Lugh 
Lamh-fada, " Light the Long-handed ". Like all 
solar deities, his growth was rapid. When he 
was a year old, he seemed to be two years; at 
the age of two, he travelled by himself; and 
when he was four years old, he was as tall as 
a boy of eight, and was his father's constant com- 

One day, Gwydion took him to the castle of 
Arianrod not her castle in the sky, but her abode 
on earth, the still - remembered site of which is 
marked by a patch of rocks in the Menai Straits, 
accessible without a boat only during the lowest 
spring and autumn tides. Arianrod had disowned 
her son, and did not recognize him when she saw 
him with Gwydion. She asked who he was, and 
was much displeased when told She demanded to 
know his name, and, when Gwydion replied that he 
had as yet received none, she "laid a destiny upon " 
him, after the fashion of the Celts, that he should be 
without a name until she chose to bestow one on 
him herself. 

1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 387. f Rhys: Celtic Folklore, p. aio. 

The Gods of the Britons 263 

To be without a name was a very serious thing 
to the ancient Britons, who seem to have held the 
primitive theory that the name and the soul are the 
same. So Gwydion cast about to think by what 
craft he might extort from Arianrod some remark 
from which he could name their son. The next day, 
he went down to the sea-shore with the boy, both of 
them disguised as cordwainers. He made a boat 
out of sea-weed by magic, and some beautifully- 
coloured leather out of some dry sticks and sedges. 
Then they sailed the boat to the port of Arianrod's 
castle, and, anchoring it where it could be seen, 
began ostentatiously to stitch away at the leather. 
Naturally, they were soon noticed, and Arianrod 
sent someone out to see who they were and what 
they were doing. When she found that they were 
shoemakers, she remembered that she wanted some 
shoes. Gwydion, though he had her measure, pur- 
posely made them, first too large, and then too 
small. This brought Arianrod herself down to the 
boat to be fitted. 

While Gwydion was measuring Arianrod's foot 
for the shoes, a wren came and stood upon the deck. 
The boy took his bow and arrow, and hit the wren 
in the leg a favourite shot of Celtic "crack" 
archers, at any rate in romance. The goddess was 
pleased to be amiable and complimentary. " Truly," 
said she, "the lion aimed at it with a steady hand." 
It is from such incidents that primitive people take 
their names, all the world over. The boy had got 
his. "It is no thanks to you," said Gwydion to 
Arianrod, "but now he has a name. And a good 

264 Mythology of the British Islands 

name it is. He shall be called Llew Llaw Gy fifes V 

This name of the sun-god is a good example of 
how obsolete the ancient pagan tradition had be- 
come before it was put into writing. The old word 
Lieu, meaning "light", had passed out of use, and 
the scribe substituted for a name that was unintelli- 
gible to him one like it which he knew, namely Llew, 
meaning " lion ". The word Gyffes seems also to 
have suffered change, and to have meant originally 
not "steady", but "long" 2 . 

At any rate, Arianrod was defeated in her design 
to keep her son nameless. Neither did she even 
get her shoes; for, as soon as he had gained his 
object, Gwydion allowed the boat to change back 
into sea-weed, and the leather to return to sedge and 
sticks. So, in her anger, she put a fresh destiny on 
the boy, that he should not take arms till she herself 
gave them him. 

Gwydion, however, took Lieu to Dinas Dinllev 
his castle, which still stands at the edge of the 
Menai Straits, and brought him up as a warrior. 
As soon as he thought him old enough to have 
arms, he took him with him again to Caer Arianrod. 
This time, they were disguised as bards. Arianrod 
received them gladly, heard Gwydion 's songs and 
tales, feasted them, and prepared a room for them 
to sleep in. 

The next morning, Gwydion got up very early, 
and prepared his most powerful incantations. By 
his druidical arts he made it seem as if the whole 

1 *.*. The Lion with the Steady Hand. 

* See Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, note to p. 237. 

The Gods of the Britons 265 

country rang with the shouts and trumpets of an 
army, and he put a glamour over everyone, so that 
they saw the bay filled with ships. Arianrod came 
to him in terror, asking what could be done to 
protect the castle. " Give us arms," he replied, 
"and we will do the best we can." So Arianrod's 
maidens armed Gwydion, while Arianrod herself 
put arms on Lieu. By the time she had finished, all 
the noises had ceased, and the ships had vanished. 
"Let us take our arms off again," said Gwydion; 
"we shall not need them now." "But the army 
is all round the castle!" cried Arianrod. "There 
was no army," answered Gwydion; "it was only an 
illusion of mine to cause you to break your prophecy 
and give our son arms. And now he has got them, 
without thanks to you." "Then I will lay a worse 
destiny on him," cried the infuriated goddess. "He 
shall never have a wife of the people of this earth." 
"He shall have a wife in spite of you," said 

So Gwydion went to Mdth, his uncle and tutor in 
magic, and between them they made a woman out 
of flowers by charms and illusion. " They took the 
blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, 
and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and pro- 
duced from them a maiden, the fairest and most 
graceful that man ever saw." They called her Bio- 
deuwedd (Flower-face), and gave her to Lieu as his 
wife. And they gave Lieu a palace called Mur y 
Castell, near Bala Lake. 

All went well until, one day, Gronw Pebyr, one 
of the gods of darkness, came by, hunting, and 

266 Mythology of the British Islands 

killed the stag at nightfall near Lleu's castle. The 
sun-god was away upon a visit to Math, but Blodeu- 
wedd asked the stranger to take shelter with her. 
That night they fell in love with one another, and 
conspired together how Lieu might be put away. 
When Lieu came back from Math's court, Blodeu- 
wedd, like a Celtic Dalilah, wormed out of him the 
secret of how his life was preserved. He told her 
that he could only die in one way; he could not be 
killed either inside or outside a house, either on 
horseback or on foot, but that if a spear that had 
been a year in the making, and which was never 
worked upon except during the sacrifice on Sunday, 
were to be cast at him as he stood beneath a roof of 
thatch, after having just bathed, with one foot upon 
the edge of the bath and the other upon a buck 
goat's back, it would cause his death. Blodeuwedd 
piously thanked Heaven that he was so well pro- 
tected, and sent a messenger to her paramour, telling 
him what she had learned. Gronw set to work on 
the spear; and in a year it was ready. When she 
knew this, Blodeuwedd asked Lieu to show her 
exactly how it was he could be killed. 

Lieu agreed; and Blodeuwedd prepared the bath 
under the thatched roof, and tethered the goat by it. 
Lieu bathed, and then stood with one foot upon the 
edge of the bath, and the other upon the goat's back. 
At this moment, Gronw, from an ambush, flung the 
spear, and hit Lieu, who, with a terrible cry, changed 
into an eagle, and flew away. He never came back; 
and Gronw took possession of both his wife and his 


The Gods of the Britons 267 

But Gwydion set out to search everywhere for his 
son. At last, one day, he came to a house in North 
Wales where the man was in great anxiety about 
his sow; for as soon as the sty was opened, every 
morning, she rushed out, and did not return again 
till late in the evening. Gwydion offered to follow 
her, and, at dawn, the man took him to the sty, and 
opened the door. The sow leaped forth, and ran, 
and Gwydion ran after her. He tracked her to 
a brook between Snowdon and the sea, still called 
Nant y Llew, and saw her feeding underneath an 
oak. Upon the top of the tree there was an eagle, 
and, every time it shook itself, there fell off it lumps 
of putrid meat, which the sow ate greedily. Gwydion 
suspected that the eagle must be Lieu. So he sang 
this verse: 

" Oak that grows between the two banks; 
Darkened is the sky and hill ! 
Shall I not tell him by his vounds, 
That this is Lieu?" 

The eagle, on hearing this, came half-way down the 
tree. So Gwydion sang: 

" Oak that grows in upland ground, 
Is it not wetted by the rain? Has it not been drenched 
By nine score tern pests i> 
It bears in its branches Lieu Llaw Gy fifes." 

The eagle came slowly down until it was on the 
lowest branch. Gwydion sang: 

" Oak that grows beneath the steep ; 
Stately and majestic is its aspect! 
Shall I not speak it? 
That Lieu will come to my lap?" 

268 Mythology of the British Islands 

Then the eagle came down, and sat on Gwydion's 
knee. Gwydion struck it with his magic wand, and 
it became Lieu again, wasted to skin and bone by 
the poison on the spear. 

Gwydion took him to Math to be healed, and left 
him there, while he went to Mur y Castell, where 
Blodeuwedd was. When she heard that he was 
coming, she fled. But Gwydion overtook her, and 
changed her into an owl, the bird that hates the 
day. A still older form of this probably extremely 
ancient myth of the sun-god the savage and repul- 
sive details of which speak of a hoary antiquity 
makes the chase of Blodeuwedd by Gwydion to have 
taken place in the sky, the stars scattered over the 
Milky Way being the traces of it. 1 As for her 
accomplice, Lieu would accept no satisfaction short 
of Gronw's submitting to stand exactly where Lieu 
had stood, to be shot at in his turn. To this he was 
obliged to agree; and Lieu killed him. 2 

There are two other sons of Beli and D6n of 
whom so little is recorded that it would hardly be 
worth while mentioning them, were it not for the 
wild poetry of the legend connected with them. 
The tale, put into writing at a time when all the 
gods were being transfigured into simple mortals, 
tells us that they were two kings of Britain, brothers. 
One starlight night they were walking together. 
"See," said Nynniaw to Peibaw, "what a fine, 
wide-spreading field I have." "Where is it?" asked 

1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 240. 

3 Retold from the Mabinogi of Math, Son of Mathonwy, in Lady Guest's Mabin* 

The Gods of the Britons 269 

Peibaw. " There/ 1 replied Nynniaw; "the whole 
stretch of the sky, as far as the eye reaches. " " Look 
then/ 1 returned Peibaw, "what a number of cattle 
I have grazing on your field/' " Where are they?" 
asked Nynniaw. "All the stars that you can see/ 1 
replied Peibaw, " every one of them of fiery-coloured 
gold, with the moon for a shepherd over them/ 1 
"They shall not feed on my field/' cried Nynniaw. 
" They shall," exclaimed Peibaw. " They shall not/ 1 
cried Nynniaw, " They shall," said Peibaw. " They 
shall not," Nynniaw answered; and so they went 
on, from contradiction to quarrel, and from private 
quarrel to civil war, until the armies of both of them 
were destroyed, and the two authors of the evil were 
turned by God into oxen for their sins. 1 

Last of the children of Don, we find a goddess 
called Penardun, of whom little is known except 
that she was married to the sea-god Llyr. This 
incident is curious, as forming a parallel to the 
Gaelic story which tells of intermarriage between the 
Tuatha D Danann and the Fomors. 2 Brigit, the 
Dagda's daughter, was married to Bress, son of 
Elathan, while Cian, the son of Diancecht, wedded 
Ethniu, the daughter of Balor. So, in this kindred 
mythology, a slender tie of relationship binds the 
gods of the sky to the gods of the sea. 

The name Llyr is supposed, like its Irish equiva- 
lent Ler, to have meant "the Sea". 8 The British 
sea-god is undoubtedly the same as the Gaelic; in- 

i The lolo Manuscripts : collected by Edward Williams, the bard, at about the 
beginning of the nineteenth century The Tale of Rhitta Gawr. 
* See Chapter VII " The Rise of the Sun-God". 
1 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 130, 

270 Mythology of the British Islands 

deed, the two facts that he is described in Welsh 
literature as Llyr Llediath, that is, " Llyr of the 
Foreign Dialect ", and is given a wife called Iweridd 
(Ireland) 1 , suggest that he may have been borrowed 
by the Britons from the Gaels later than any myth- 
ology common to both. As a British god, he was 
the far-off original of Shakespeare's " King Lear". 
The chief city of his worship is still called after him, 
Leicester, that is, Llyr-cestre, in still earlier days, 
Caer Llyr. 

Llyr, we have noticed, married two wives, Pen- 
ardun and Iweridd. By the daughter of Don he 
had a son called Manawyddan, who is identical 
with the Gaelic Mananndn mac Lir. 2 We know 
less of his character and attributes than we do of the 
Irish god; but we find him equally a ruler in that 
Hades or Elysium which the Celtic mind ever con- 
nected with the sea. Like all the inhabitants of 
that other world, he is at once a master of magic 
and of the useful arts, which he taught willingly to 
his friends. To his enemies, however, he could 
show a different side of his character. A triad tells 
us that 

" The achievement of Manawyddan the Wise, 
After lamentation and fiery wrath, 

Was the constructing of the bone-fortress of Oeth and 
Anoeth ", 8 

which is described as a prison made, in the shape of 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 130. 

a The old Irish tract called Coir Anmann (the Choice of Names] says: "Man- 
annan mac Lir . . . the Britons and the men of Erin deemed that he was the god 
of the sea". 

1 lolo MSS., stanza 18 of The Stanzas of the Achievements, composed by the 
Azure Bard of the Chair, 

The Gods of the Britons 271 

a bee-hive, entirely of human bones mortared to- 
gether, and divided into innumerable cells, forming a 
kind of labyrinth. In this ghastly place he immured 
those whom he found trespassing in Hades; and 
among his captives was no less a person than the 
famous Arthur. 1 

" Ireland " bore two children to Llyr: a daughter 
called Branwen and a son called Bran. The little 
we know of Branwen of the " Fair Bosom " shows 
her as a goddess of love child, like the Greek 
Aphroditd, of the sea. Bran, on the other hand, 
is, even more clearly than Manawyddan, a dark 
deity of Hades. He is represented as of colossal 
size, so huge, in fact, that no house or ship was big 
enough to hold him. 2 He delighted in battle and 
carnage, like the hoodie-crow or raven from which 
he probably took his name, 3 but he was also the 
especial patron of bards, minstrels, and musicians, 
and we find him in one of the poems ascribed to 
Taliesin claiming to be himself a bard, a harper, 
a player on the crowth, and seven - score other 
musicians all at once. 4 His son was called Cara- 
dawc the Strong-armed, who, as the British myth- 
ology crumbled, became confounded with the his- 
torical Caratacus, known popularly as "Caractacus". 

Both Brn and Manawyddan were especially con- 
nected with the Swansea peninsula. The bone- 
fortress of Oeth and Anoeth was placed by tradition in 

1 Sec note to chap, xxn " The Treasures of Britain". 
1 Mabinogi of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr* 
1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 245. 

4 Book of Taliesin, poem XLVIII, in Skene's FQurAwtnt BQQ%$ of Wato* Vol I, 
p. 297. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

Gower. 1 That Brdn was equally at home there may 
be proved from the Morte Darthur, in which store- 
house of forgotten and misunderstood mythology 
Brin of Gower survives as " King Brandegore". 2 
Such identification of a mere mortal country with 
the other world seems strange enough to us, but to 
our Celtic ancestors it was a quite natural thought 
All islands and peninsulas, which, viewed from an 
opposite coast, probably seemed to them islands 
were deemed to be pre-eminently homes of the dark 
Powers of Hades. Difficult of access, protected by 
the turbulent and dangerous sea, sometimes rendered 
quite invisible by fogs and mists and, at other times, 
looming up ghostlily on the horizon, often held by 
the remnant of a hostile lower race, they gained a 
mystery and a sanctity from the law of the human 
mind which has always held the unknown to be the 
terrible. The Cornish Britons, gazing from the 
shore, saw Gower and Lundy, and deemed them 
outposts of the over-sea Other World. To the 
Britons of Wales, Ireland was. no human realm, a 
view reciprocated by the Gaels, who saw Hades 
in Britain, while the Isle of Man was a little Hades 
common to them both. Nor even was the sea 
always necessary to sunder the world of ghosts 
from that of " shadow-casting men". Glastonbury 
Tor, surrounded by almost impassable swamps, was 
one of the especial haunts of Gwyn ap Nudd. The 
Britons of the north held that beyond the Roman 

1 The Versa of the Graves of the Warriors, in the Black Book of Caermarthen, 
See also Rhys : Arthurian Legend, p. 347. 
3 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 160, 

The Gods of the Britons 273 

wall and the vast Caledonian wood lived ghosts 
and not men. Even the Roman province of De- 
metia called by the Welsh Dyfed, and correspond- 
ing, roughly, to the modern County of Pembroke- 
shire was, as a last stronghold of the aborigines, 
identified with the mythic underworld. 

As such, Dyfed was ruled by a local tribe of 
gods, whose greatest figures were Pwyll, " Head 
of Annwn " (the Welsh name for Hades), with his 
wife Rhiannon, and their son Pryderi. These 
beings are described as hostile to the children of 
Don, but friendly to the race of Llyr. After 
Pwyll's death or disappearance, his widow Rhiannon 
becomes the wife of Manawyddan. 1 In a poem 
of Taliesin's we find Manawyddan and Pryderi joint- 
rulers of Hades, and warders of that magic cauldron 
of inspiration 2 which the gods of light attempted to 
steal or capture, and which became famous after- 
wards as the " Holy Grail ". Another of their 
treasures were the " Three Birds of Rhiannon ", 
which, we are told in an ancient book, could sing 
the dead to life and the living into the sleep of 
death. Fortunately they sang seldom. "There 
are three things/' says a Welsh triad, "which are 
not often heard : the song of the birds of Rhiannon, 
a song of wisdom from the mouth of a Saxon, and 
an invitation to a feast from a miser. " 

Nor is the list of British gods complete with- 
out mention of Arthur, though most readers will 
be surprised to find him in such company. The 

i Mabinogi of Manawyddan t Son of Llyr. 
9 Book of Taliesin, poem xiv, Vol. I, p. 276, of Skene. 
(B210) S 

274 Mythology of the British Islands 

genius of Tennyson, who drew his materials mostly 
from the Norman- French romances, has stereotyped 
the popular conception of Arthur as a king of early 
Britain who fought for his fatherland and the Chris- 
tian faith against invading Saxons. Possibly there 
may, indeed, have been a powerful British chieftain 
bearing that typically Celtic name, which is found in 
Irish legend as Artur, one of the sons of Nemed who 
fought against the Fomors, and on the Continent 
as Artaius, a Gaulish deity whom the Romans identi- 
fied with Mercury, and who seems to have been 
a patron of agriculture. 1 But the original Arthur 
stands upon the same ground as Cuchulainn and 
Finn. His deeds are mythical, because super- 
human. His companions can be shown to have 
been divine. Some we know were worshipped in 
Gaul. Others are children of Don, of Llyr, and 
of Pwyll, dynasties of older gods to whose head 
Arthur seems to have risen, as his cult waxed and 
theirs waned. Stripped of their godhead, and 
strangely transformed, they fill the pages of ro- 
mance as Knights of the Table Round. 

These deities were the native gods of Britain. 
Many others are, however, mentioned upon inscrip- 
tions found in our island, but these were almost 
all exotic and imported. Imperial Rome brought 
men of diverse races among her legions, and these 
men brought their gods. Scattered over Britain, 
but especially in the north, near the Wall, we find 
evidence that deities of many nations from Ger- 
many to Africa, and from Gaul to Persia were 

1 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian legend, p. 48 and note. 

The Gods of the Britons 275 

sporadically worshipped. 1 Most of these foreign 
gods were Roman, but a temple at Eboracum (now 
York) was dedicated to Serapis, and Mithras, the 
Persian sun-god, was also adored there; while at 
Corbridge, in Northumberland (the ancient Cor- 
spitium), there have been found altars to the Tyrian 
Hercules and to Astarte. The war-god was also 
invoked under many strange names as " Cocidius " 
by a colony of Dacians in Cumberland ; as Toutates, 
Camulus, Coritiacus, Belatucador, Alator, Loucetius, 
Condates, and Rigisamos by men of different coun- 
tries. A goddess of war was worshipped at Bath 
under the name of Nemetona. The hot springs 
of the same town were under the patronage of a 
divinity called Sul, identified by the Romans with 
Minerva, and she was helped by a god of medicine 
described on a dedicatory tablet as " Sol Apollo 
Anicetus ". Few of these " strange gods", however, 
seem to have taken hold of the imagination of the 
native Britons. Their worshippers did not prose- 
lytize, and their general influence was probably 
about equal to that of an Evangelical Church in 
a Turkish town. The sole exceptions to this rule 
are where the foreign gods are Gaulish; but in 
several instances it can be proved that they were 
not so much of Roman, as of original Celtic 
importation. The warlike heaven - god Camulus 
appears in Gaelic heroic myth as Cumhal, the 
father of Finn, and in British mythical history as 
Coel, a duke of Caer Coelvin (known earlier as 

iScc a paper in the Edinburgh Review for July, 1851 "The Romans in 
Britain ". 

276 Mythology of the British Islands 

Camulodunum, and now as Colchester), who seized 
the crown of Britain, and spent his short reign 
in a series of battles. 1 The name of the sun - 
god Maponos is found alike upon altars in Gaul 
and Britain, and in Welsh literature as Mabon, a 
follower of Arthur; while another Gaulish sun-god, 
Belinus, who had a splendid temple at Bajocassos 
(the modern Bayeux), though not mentioned in the 
earliest British mythology, as its scattered records 
have come down to us, must have been con- 
nected with Brdn, for we find in Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth's History " King Belinus " as brother of 
14 King Brennius ", 2 and in the Morte Darthur 
44 Balin " as brother of " Balan ". 3 A second-century 
Greek writer gives an account of a god of eloquence 
worshipped in Gaul under the name of Ogmios, and 
represented as equipped like Heracles, a description 
which exactly corresponds to the conception of the 
Gaelic Ogma, at once patron of literature and writ- 
ing and professional strong man of the Tuatha D6 
Danann, Nemetona, the war-goddess worshipped 
at Bath, was probably the same as Nemon, one of 
Nuada's Valkyr -wives, while a broken inscription 
to athubodva, which probably stood, when intact, 
for Cathubodva, may well have been addressed to 
the Gaulish equivalent of Badb Catha, the l4 War- 
fury ". Lugh, or Lieu, was also widely known on 
the Continent as Lugus. Three important towns 

i It is said that the " Old King Cole " of the popular ballad, who " was a merry 
old soul ", represents the last faint tradition of the Celtic god. 
* Geoffrey of Monmouth, Book III, chap. I. 
Morte Darthur, Book I, chap. xvi. 

The Gods of the Britons 277 

Laon, Leyden, and Lyons were all anciently called 
after him Lugu-dunum (Lugus' town), and at the 
last and greatest of these a festival was still held 
in Roman times upon the sun-god's day the first 
of August which corresponded to the Lugnassad 
(Lugh's commemoration) held in ancient Ireland. 
Brigit, the Gaelic Minerva, is also found in Britain 
as Brigantia, tutelary goddess of the Brigantes, a 
Northern tribe, and in Eastern France as Brigindo, 
to whom Iccavos, son of Oppianos, made a dedica- 
tory offering of which there is still record. 1 

Other, less striking agreements between the myth- 
ical divine names of the Insular and Continental 
Celts might be cited. These recorded should, how- 
ever, prove sufficiently that Gaul, Gael, and Briton 
shared in a common heritage of mythological names 
and ideas, which they separately developed into 
three superficially different, but essentially similar 

1 For full account of Gaulish gods, and their Gaelic and British affinities, sec 
Rhys: Hibbcrt Lectures, I and II "The Gaulish Pantheon". 



It is with the family of Pwyll, deities connected 
with the south-west corner of Wales, called by the 
Romans Demetia, and by the Britons Dyfed, and, 
roughly speaking, identical with the modern county 
of Pembrokeshire, that the earliest consecutive 
accounts of the British gods begin. The first of 
the Four Branches of the Mabinogi tell us how 
" Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed ", gained the right to be 
called Pen Annwn, the " Head of Hades ". Indeed, 
it almost seems as if it had been deliberately written 
to explain how the same person could be at once a 
mere mortal prince, however legendary, and a ruler 
in the mystic Other World, and so to reconcile two 
conflicting traditions. 1 But to an earlier age than 
that in which the legend was put into a literary 
shape, such forced reconciliation would not have 
been needed; for the two legends would not have 
been considered to conflict. When Pwyll, head of 
Annwn, was a mythic person whose tradition was 
still alive, the unexplored, rugged, and savage 
country of Dyfed, populated by the aboriginal 
Iberians whom the Celt had driven into such remote 
districts, appeared to those who dwelt upon the 

i Rhys. Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 282. 

The Adventures of the Gods of Hades 279 

eastern side of its dividing river, the Tawe, at least a 
dependency of Annwn, if not that weird realm itself. 
But, as men grew bolder, the frontier was crossed, 
and Dyfed entered and traversed, and found to be 
not so unlike other countries. Its inhabitants, if 
not of Celtic race, were yet of flesh and blood. So 
that, though the province still continued to bear to a 
late date the names of the " Land of Illusion and 
the " Realm of Glamour V it was no longer deemed 
to be Hades itself. That fitful and shadowy country 
had folded its tents, and departed over or under seas. 

The story of " Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed", 2 tells us 
how there was war in Annwn between its two kings 
or between two, perhaps, of its many chieftains. 
Arawn (" Silver-Tongue ") and Havgan ("Summer- 
White") each coveted the dominions of the other. 
In the continual contests between them, Arawn was 
worsted, and in despair he visited the upper earth to 
seek for a mortal ally. 

At this time Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, held his 
court at Narberth. He had, however, left his 
capital upon a hunting expedition to Glyn Ctich, 
known to-day as a valley upon the borders of the 
two counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen. Like 
so many kings of European and Oriental romance, 
when an adventure is at hand, he became separated 
from his party, and was, in modern parlance, "thrown 
out". He could, however, still hear the music of 
his hounds, and was listening to them, when he also 

1 It ii constantly so-called by the fourteenth-century Welsh poet, Dafydd ab 
Gwilym, so much admired by George Borrow. 

1 This chapter is retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabinogi of Pwyll, 
Prince of Dyfed. 

280 . Mythology of the British Islands 

distinguished the cry of another pack coming towards 
him. As he watched and listened, a stag came into 
view; and the strange hounds pulled it down almost 
at his feet. At first Pwyll hardly looked at the 
stag, he was so taken up with gazing at the hounds, 
for " of all the hounds that he had seen in the world, 
he had never seen any that were like unto these. 
For their hair was of a brilliant shining white, and 
their ears were red; and as the whiteness of their 
bodies shone, so did the redness of their ears glisten." 
They were, indeed, though Pwyll does not seem to 
have known it, of the true Hades breed the snow- 
white, red-eared hounds we meet in Gaelic legends, 
and which are still said to be sometimes heard and 
seen scouring the hills of Wales by night. Seeing 
no rider with the hounds, Pwyll drove them away 
from the dead stag, and called up his own pack to it. 

While he was doing this, a man " upon a large, 
light-gray steed, with a hunting-horn round his neck, 
and clad in garments of gray woollen in the fashion 
of a hunting garb " appeared, and rated Pwyll for 
his unsportsmanlike conduct. " Greater discourtesy," 
said he, "I never saw than your driving away my 
dogs after they had killed the stag, and calling your 
own to it. And though I may not be revenged 
upon you for this, I swear that I will do you more 
damage than the value of a hundred stags." 

Pwyll expressed his contrition, and, asking the 
new-comer's name and rank, offered to atone for his 
fault The stranger told his name Arawn, a king 
of Annwn and said that Pwyll could gain his 
forgiveness only in one way, by going to Annwn 

The Adventures of the Gods of Hades 281 

instead of him, and fighting for him with Havgan. 
Pwyll agreed to do this, and the King of Hades put 
his own semblance upon the mortal prince, so that 
not a person in Annwn not even Arawn's own wife 
would know that he was not that king. He led 
him by a secret path into Annwn, and left him 
before his castle, charging him to return to the place 
where they had first met, at the end of a year from 
that day. On the other hand, Arawn took on 
Pwyll's shape, and went to Narberth. 

No one in Annwn suspected Pwyll of being anyone 
else than their king. He spent the year in ruling 
the realm, in hunting, minstrelsy, and feasting. 
Both by day and night, he had the company of 
Arawn's wife, the most beautiful woman he had ever 
yet seen, but he refrained from taking advantage of 
the trust placed in him. At last the day came when 
he was to meet Havgan in single combat. One 
blow settled it; for Pwyll, Havgan's destined con- 
queror, thrust his antagonist an arm's and a spear's 
length over the crupper of his horse, breaking his 
shield and armour, and mortally wounding him. 
Havgan was carried away to die, and Pwyll, in the 
guise of Arawn, received the submission of the dead 
king's subjects, and annexed his realm. Then he 
went back to Glyn Cftch, to keep his tryst with 

They retook their own shapes, and each returned 
to his own kingdom. Pwyll learned that Dyfed had 
never been ruled so well, or been so prosperous, as 
during the year just passed. As for the King of 
Hades, he found his enemy gone, and his domains 

382 Mythology of the British Islands 

extended. And when he caressed his wife, she 
asked him why he did so now, after the lapse of a 
whole year. So he told her the truth, and they both 
agreed that they had indeed got a true friend in 

After this, the kings of Annwn and Dyfed made 
their friendship strong between them. From that 
time forward, says the story, Pwyll was no longer 
called Prince of Dyfed, but Pen Annwn, " the Head 
of Hades ", 

The second mythological incident in the Mabinogi 
of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, tells how the Head of 
Hades won his wife, Rhiannon, thought by Professor 
Rhys to have been a goddess either of the dawn or 
of the moon. 1 There was a mound outside Pwyll's 
palace at Narberth which had a magical quality, 
To anyone who sat upon it there happened one of 
two things: either he received wounds and blows, 
or else he saw a wonder. One day, it occurred to 
Pwyll that he would like to try the experience of the 
mound. So he went and sat upon it. 

No unseen blows assailed Pwyll, but he had not 
been sitting long upon the mound before he saw, 
coming towards him, "a lady on a pure-white horse 
of large size, with a garment of shining gold around 
her", riding very quietly. He sent a man on foot 
to ask her who she was, but, though she seemed 
to be moving so slowly, the man could not come up 
to her. He failed utterly to overtake her, and she 
passed on out of sight. 

The next day, Pwyll went again to the mound 

1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 678. 

The Adventures of the Gods of Hades 283 

The lady appeared, and, this time, Pwyll sent a 
horseman. At first, the horseman only ambled along 
at about the same pace at which the lacly seemed to 
be going; then, failing to get near her, he urged his 
horse into a gallop. But, whether he rode slow or 
fast, he could come no closer to the lady than be- 
fore, although she seemed to the eyes of those who 
watched to have been going only at a foot's pace. 

The day after that, Pwyll determined to accost 
the lady himself. She came at the same gentle 
walk, and Pwyll at first rode easily, and then at 
his horse's topmost speed, but with the same result, 
or lack of it. At last, in despair, he called to the 
mysterious damsel to stop. " I will stop gladly," 
said she, "and it would have been better for your 
horse if you had asked me before/' She told him 
that her name was Rhiannon, daughter of Heveydd 
the Ancient The nobles of her realm had deter- 
mined to give her in marriage against her will, so 
she had come to seek out Pwyll, w r ho was the man 
of her choice. Pwyll was delighted to hear this, for 
he thought that she was the most beautiful lady 
he had ever seen. Before they parted, they had 
plighted troth, and Pwyll had promised to appear 
on that day twelvemonth at the palace of her father, 
Heveydd. Then she vanished, and Pwyll returned 
to Narberth. 

At the appointed time, Pwyll went to visit He- 
veydd the Ancient, with a hundred followers. He 
was received with much welcome, and the dispo- 
sition of the feast put under his command, as the 
Celts seem to have done to especially honoured 

Mythology of the British Islands 

guests. As they sat at meat, with Pwyll between 
Rhiannon and her father, a tall auburn-haired youth 
came into the hall, greeted Pwyll, and asked a boon 
of him. " Whatever boon you may ask of me," 
said Pwyll thoughtlessly, " if it is in my power, 
you shall have it." Then the suitor threw off all 
disguise, called the guests to witness Pwyll's pro- 
mise, and claimed Rhiannon as his bride. Pwyll 
was dumb. " Be silent as long as you will/ 1 said 
the masterful Rhiannon; " never did a man make 
worse use of his wits than you have done/ 1 
" Lady," replied the amazed Pwyll, " I knew not 
who he was." " He is the man to whom they 
would have given me against my will/' she an- 
swered, " Gwawl, the son of Cltid. You must 
bestow me upon him now, lest shame befall you/ 1 
" Never will I do that/' said Pwyll. " Bestow 
me upon him," she insisted, "and I will cause 
that I shall never be his." So Pwyll promised 
Gwawl that he would make a feast that day year, 
at which he would resign Rhiannon to him. 

The next year, the feast was made, and Rhiannon 
sat by the side of her unwelcome bridegroom. But 
Pwyll was waiting outside the palace, with a hundred 
men in ambush. When the banquet was at its 
height, he came into the hall, dressed in coarse, 
ragged garments, shod with clumsy old shoes, and 
carrying a leather bag. But the bag was a magic 
one, which Rhiannon had given to her lover, with 
directions as to its use. Its quality was that, how- 
ever much was put into it, it could never be filled. 
" I crave a boon," he said to Gwawl. " What is 

The Adventures of the Gods of Hades 285 

it?" Gwawl replied. " I am a poor man, and all 
I ask is to have this bag filled with meat." Gwawl 
granted what he said was "a request within reason 1 ', 
and ordered his followers to fill the bag. But the 
more they put into it, the more room in it there 
seemed to be. Gwawl was astonished, and asked 
why this was. Pwyll replied that it was a bag that 
could never be filled until someone possessed of 
lands and riches should tread the food down with 
both his feet. " Do this for the man," said Rhian- 
non to Gwawl. " Gladly I will," replied he, and 
put both his feet into the bag. But no sooner 
had he done so than Pwyll slipped the bag over 
Gwawl's head, and tied it up at the mouth. He 
blew his horn, and all his followers came in. " What 
have you got in the bag?" asked each one in turn. 
"A badger," replied Pwyll. Then each, as he 
received Pwyll's answer, kicked the bag, or hit it 
with a stick. "Then," says the story, "was the 
game of 'Badger in the Bag* first played." 

Gwawl, however, fared better than we suspect that 
the badger usually did; for Heveydd the Ancient 
interceded for him. Pwyll willingly released him, on 
condition that he promised to give up all claim to 
Rhiannon, and renounced all projects of revenge. 
Gwawl consented, and gave sureties, and went away 
to his own country to have his bruises healed. 

This country of Gwawl's was, no doubt, the sky ; 
for he was evidently a sun-god. His name bewrays 
him; for the meaning of "Gwawl" is "light". 1 It 

1 Rhys: Hibbert Lccturt$> p. 123 and note. Clftd was probably the goddess of 
the River Clyde. See Rhys: Arthurian Legend ', p. 294. 

a86 Mythology of the British Islands 

was one of the hours of victory for the dark powers, 
such as were celebrated in the Celtic calendar by 
the Feast of Samhain, or Summer End. 

There was no hindrance now to the marriage of 
Pwyll and Rhiannon. She became his bride, and 
returned with him to Dyfed. 

For three years, they were without an heir, and 
the nobles of Dyfed became discontented. They 
petitioned Pwyll to take another wife instead of 
Rhiannon. He asked for a year's delay. This 
was granted, and, before the end of the year, a son 
was born. But, on the night of his birth, the six 
women set to keep watch over Rhiannon all fell 
asleep at once; and when they woke up, the boy 
had vanished. Fearful lest their lives should be 
forfeited for their neglect, they agreed to swear 
that Rhiannon had eaten her child. They killed 
a litter of puppies, and smeared some of the blood 
on Rhiannon's face and hands, and put some of 
the bones by her side. Then they awoke her with 
a great outcry, and accused her. She swore that 
she knew nothing of the death of her son, but the 
women persisted that they had seen her devour 
him, and had been unable to prevent it. The druids 
of that day were not sufficiently practical anatomists 
to be able to tell the bones of a child from those of 
a dog, so they condemned Rhiannon upon the evi- 
dence of the women. But, even now, Pwyll would 
not put her away; so she was assigned a penance. 
For seven years, she was to sit by a horse-block 
outside the gate, and offer to carry visitors into 
the palace upon her back. " But it rarely hap* 

The Adventures of the Gods of Hades 287 

pened," says the Mabinogi, "that any would permit 
her to do so." 

Exactly what had become of Rhiannon's child 
seems to have been a mystery even to the writer 
of the Mabinogi. It was, at any rate, in some way 
connected with the equally mysterious disappearance 
on every night of the first of May Beltaine, the 
Celtic sun-festival of the colts foaled by a beau- 
tiful mare belonging to Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, 
one of Pwyll's vassals. Every May-day night, the 
mare foaled, but no one knew what became of the 
colt. Teirnyon decided to find out. He caused 
the mare to be taken into a house, and there he 
watched it, fully armed. Early in the night, the colt 
was born. Then there was a great noise, and an 
arm with claws came through the window, and 
gripped the colt's mane. Teirnyon hacked at the 
arm with his sword, and cut it off. Then he heard 
wailing, and opened the door, and found a baby in 
swaddling clothes, wrapped in a satin mantle. He 
took it up and brought it to his wife, and they 
decided to adopt it. They called the boy Gwri 
Walk Euryn, that is "Gwri of the Golden Hair". 

The older the boy grew, the more it seemed to 
Teirnyon that he became like Pwyll. Then he 
remembered that he had found him upon the very 
night that Rhiannon lost her child. So he con- 
sulted with his wife, and they both agreed that 
the baby they had so mysteriously found must be 
the same that Rhiannon had so mysteriously 
lost And they decided that it would not be 
right for them to keep the son of another, while 

a88 Mythology of the British Islands 

so good a lady as Rhiannon was being punished 

So, the very next day, Teirnyon set out for Nar- 
berth, taking the boy with him. They found Rhi- 
annon sitting, as usual, by the gate, but they would 
not allow her to carry them into the palace on 
her back. Pwyll welcomed them; and that evening, 
as they sat at supper, Teirnyon told his hosts the 
story from beginning to end. And he presented 
her son to Rhiannon. 

As soon as everyone in the palace saw the boy, 
they admitted that he must be Pwyll's son. So 
they adopted him with delight; and Pendaran Dy- 
fed, the head druid of the kingdom, gave him a 
new name. He called him " Pryderi 1 ", meaning 
" trouble ", from the first word that his mother had 
uttered when he was restored to her. For she 
had said: " Trouble is, indeed, at an end for me, 
if this be true ". 

1 Pronounced Pridatry. 



In the second of the " Four B ranches ", Pryderi, 
come to man's estate, and married to a wife called 
Kicva, appears as a guest or vassal at the court of 
a greater god of Hades than himself Br&n, the son 
of the sea-god Llyr. The children of Llyr Brdn, 
with his sister Branwen of the " Fair Bosom " and 
his half-brother Manawyddan, as well as two sons 
of Manawyddan's mother, Penardun, by an earlier 
marriage, were holding court at Twr Branwen, 
" Bran wen's Tower ", now called Harlech. As they 
sat on a cliff, looking over the sea, they saw thirteen 
ships coming from Ireland The fleet sailed close 
under the land, and Briin sent messengers to ask 
who they were, and why they had come. It was 
replied that they were the vessels of Matholwch, 
King of Ireland, and that he had come to ask Brdn 
for his sister Branwen in marriage. Brdn consented, 
and they fixed upon Aberffraw, in Anglesey, as the 
place at which to hold the wedding feast. Matholwch 
and his fleet went there by sea, and Brin and his 
host by land. When they arrived, and met, they 
set up pavilions; for "no house could ever hold the 

1 Retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabinogi vlBranwn t the Daughter 
(BS19) 989 T 

290 Mythology of the British Islands 

blessed Br&n". And there Branwen became the 
King of Ireland's bride. 1 

These relations were not long, however, allowed 
to be friendly. Of the two other sons of Llyr's wife, 
Penardun, the mother of Manawyddan, one was 
called Nissyen, and the other, Evnissyen. Nissyen 
was a lover of peace, and would always " cause his 
family to be friends when their wrath was at the 
highest ", but Evnissyen " would cause strife between 
his two brothers when they were most at peace". 
Now Evnissyen was enraged because his consent 
had not been asked to Bran wen's marriage. Out of 
spite at this, he cut off the lips, ears, eyebrows, and 
tails of all Matholwch's horses. 

When the King of Ireland found this out, he was 
very indignant at the insult. But Bran sent an 
embassy to him twice, explaining that it had not 
been done by his consent or with his knowledge. 
He appeased Matholwch by giving him a sound 
horse in place of every one that Evnissyen had 
mutilated, as well as a staff of silver as large and tall 
as Matholwch himself, and a plate of gold as broad 
as Matholwch's face. To these gifts he also added a 
magic cauldron brought from Ireland. Its property 
was that any slain man who was put into it was 
brought to life again, except that he lost the use of 
speech. The King of Ireland accepted this recom- 
pense for the insult done him, renewed his friendship 
with the children of Llyr, and sailed away with 
Branwen to Ireland. 

1 Rhys /><r/ttw on Welsh /^//0/<?x--coTn pares Matholwch with MAth, and the 
story, generally, with the Greek myth of Persephon. 

Branwen and Br&n 391 

Before a year was over, Branwen bore a son. 
They called him Gwern, and put him out to be 
foster-nursed among the best men of Ireland. But, 
during the second year, news came to Ireland of the 
insult that Matholwch had received in Britain. The 
King of Ireland's foster-brothers and near relations 
insisted that he should revenge himself upon Bran- 
wen. So the queen was compelled to serve in the 
kitchen, and, every day, the butcher gave her a box 
upon the ear. That this should not become known 
to Brin, all traffic was forbidden between Ireland 
and Britain. This went on for three years. 

But, in the meantime, Branwen had reared a 
tame starling, and she taught it to speak, and tied 
a letter of complaint to the root of its wing, and sent 
it off to Britain. At last it found Bran, whom its 
mistress had described to it, and settled upon his 
shoulder, ruffling its wings. This exposed the letter, 
and Brin read it. He sent messengers to one hun- 
dred and forty-four countries, to raise an army to go 
to Ireland. Leaving his son Caradawc, with seven 
others, in charge of Britain, he started himself 
wading through the sea, while his men went by 

No one in Ireland knew that they were coming 
until the royal swineherds, tending their pigs near 
the sea-shore, beheld a marvel. They saw a forest 
on the surface of the sea a place where certainly 
no forest had been before and, near it, a mountain 
with a lofty ridge on its top, and a lake on each side 
of the ridge. Both the forest and the mountain were 
swiftly moving towards Ireland. They informed 

292 Mythology of the British Islands 

Matholwch, who could not understand it, and sent 
messengers to ask Bran wen what she thought it 
might be. " It is the men of the Island of the 
Mighty 1 /' said she, "who are coming here because 
they have heard of my ill-treatment. The forest 
that is seen on the sea is made of the masts of ships. 
The mountain is my brother Brin, wading into shoal 
water; the lofty ridge is his nose, and the two lakes, 
one on each side of it, are his eyes.' 1 

The men of Ireland were terrified. They fled 
beyond the Shannon, and broke down the bridge 
over it. But Bran lay down across the river, 
and his army walked over him to the opposite 

Matholwch now sent messengers suing for peace. 
He offered to resign the throne of Ireland to Gwern, 
Branwen's son and Bran's nephew. " Shall I not 
have the kingdom myself?" said Br&n, and would 
not hear of anything else. So the counsellors of 
Matholwch advised him to conciliate Bran by build- 
ing him a house so large that it would be the first 
house that had ever held him, and, in it, to hand 
over the kingdom to his will. Bran consented to 
accept this, and the vast house was built. 

It concealed treachery. Upon each side of the 
hundred pillars of the house was hung a bag, and in 
the bag was an armed man, who was to cut himself 
out at a given signal. But Evnissyen came into the 
house, and seeing the bags there, suspected the 
plot " What is in this bag? 11 he said to one of the 
Irish, as he came up to the first one. " Meal/ 1 

1 A bardh name for Britain 

Braniven and Br&n 393 

replied the Irishman. Then Evnissyen kneaded 
the bag in his hands, as though it really contained 
meal, until he had killed the man inside; and he 
treated all of them in turn in the same way. 

A little later, the two hosts met in the house. 
The men of Ireland came in on one side, and the 
men of Britain on the other, and met at the hearth 
in the middle, and sat down. The Irish court did 
homage to Brdn, and they crowned Gwern, Bran- 
wen's son, King of Ireland in place of Matholwch. 
When the ceremonies were over, the boy went from 
one to another of his uncles, to make acquaintance 
with them. Brdn fondled and caressed him, and so 
did Manawyddan, and Nissyen, But when he came 
to Evnissyen, the wicked son of Penardun seized 
the child by the feet, and dropped him head first 
into the great fire. 

When Branwen saw her son killed, she tried to 
leap into the flames after him, but Bran held her 
back. Then every man armed himself, and such a 
tumult was never heard in one house before. Day 
after day they fought; but the Irish had the advan- 
tage, for they had only to plunge their dead men 
into the magic cauldron to bring them back to life. 
When Evnissyen knew this, he saw a way of aton- 
ing for the misfortunes his evil nature had brought 
upon Britain. He disguised himself as an Irishman, 
and lay upon the floor as if dead, until they put him 
into the cauldron. Then he stretched himself, and, 
with one desperate effort, burst both the cauldron 
and his own heart 

Thus things were made equal again, and in the 

294 Mythology of the British Islands 

next battle the men of Britain killed all the Irish. 
But of themselves there were only seven left un- 
hurt Pryderi; Manawyddan; Gluneu, the son of 
Taran 1 ; Taliesin the Bard; Ynawc; Grudyen, the 
son of Muryel; and Heilyn, the son of Gwynn the 

Brdn himself was wounded in the foot with a poi- 
soned dart, and was in agony. So he ordered his 
seven surviving followers to cut off his head, and to 
take it to the White Mount in London 2 , and bury 
it there, with the face towards France. He pro- 
phesied how they would perform the journey. At 
Harlech they would be feasting seven years, the 
birds of Rhiannon singing to them all the time, 
and Bran's own head conversing with them as 
agreeably as when it was on his body. Then they 
would be fourscore years at G wales 8 . All this 
while, Bran's head would remain uncorrupted, and 
would talk so pleasantly that they would forget the 
flight of time. But, at the destined hour, someone 
would open a door which looked towards Cornwall, 
and, after that, they could stay no longer, but must 
hurry to London to bury the head. 

So the seven beheaded Brin, and set off, taking 
Branwen also with them. They landed at the 
mouth of the River Alaw, in Anglesey. Branwen 
first looked back towards Ireland, and then forward 
towards Britain. " Alas/ 5 she cried, " that I was 

1 This personage may have been the same as the Gaulish god Taranis, Mention, 
too, is made in an ancient Irish glossary of " Etirun, an idol of the Britons". 

'This spot, called by a twelfth-century Welsh poet "The White Eminence of 
London, a place of splendid fame", was probably the hill on which the Tower of 
London now stands. ' The island of Gresholm, off the coast of Pembrokeshire* 

Branwen and Bran 295 

ever born! two islands have been destroyed because 
of me." Her heart broke with sorrow, and she 
died. An old Welsh poem says, with a touch of 
real pathos : 

" Softened were the voices in the brakes 
Of the wondering birds 
On seeing the fair body. 
Will there not be relating again 
Of that which befel the paragon 
At the stream of Amlwch?" 1 

14 They made her a four-sided grave/' says the 
Mabinogi, "and buried her upon the banks of the 
Alaw." The traditionary spot has always borne the 
name of Ynys Branwen, and, curiously enough, an 
urn was found there, in 1813, full of ashes and half- 
burnt bones, which certain enthusiastic local anti- 
quaries saw "every reason to suppose " were those 
of the fair British Aphrodit6 herself. 2 

The seven went on towards Harlech, and, as they 
journeyed, they met men and women who gave 
them the latest news. Caswallawn, a son of Beli, 
the husband of D6n, had destroyed the ministers 
left behind by Bran to take care of Britain. He 
had made himself invisible by the help of a magic 
veil, and thus had killed all of them except Penda- 
ran Dyfed, foster-father of Pryderi, who had escaped 
into the woods, and Caradawc son of Brdn, whose 
heart had broken from grief. Thus he had made 
himself king of the whole island in place of 

1 The Gododin of Aneurin, as translated by T. Stephens. Branwen is there 
called "the lady Bradwen". 
* See note to Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr in Lady Guest's Mabinogion. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

Manawyddan, its rightful heir now that Brln was 

However, the destiny was upon the seven that 
they should go on with their leader's head. They 
went to Harlech and feasted for seven years, the 
three birds of Rhiannon singing them songs com- 
pared with which all other songs seemed un- 
melodious. Then they spent fourscore years in the 
Isle of Gwales, eating and drinking, and listening to 
the pleasant conversation of Bran's head. The 
" Entertaining of the Noble Head " this eighty 
years' feast was called. Erin's head, indeed, is 
almost more notable in British mythology than Brin 
before he was decapitated. Taliesin and the other 
bards invoke it repeatedly as Urddawl Ben (the 
11 Venerable Head") and Uther Ben (the " Wonder- 
ful Head"). 

But all pleasure came to an end when Heilyn, the 
son of Gwynn, opened the forbidden door, like 
Bluebeard's wife, "to know if that was true which 
was said concerning it ". As soon as they looked 
towards Cornwall, the glamour that had kept them 
merry for eighty-seven years failed, and left them as 
grieved about the death of their lord as though it 
had happened that very day. They could not rest 
for sorrow, but went at once to London, and laid 
the now dumb and corrupting head in its grave 
on Tower Hill, with its face turned towards France, 
to watch that no foe came from foreign lands to 
Britain. There it reposed until, ages afterwards, 
Arthur, in his pride of heart, dug it up, "as he 
thought it beneath his dignity to hold the island 

Branwen and Brcin 297 

otherwise than by valour". Disaster, in the shape 


" the godless hosts 
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern sea", 1 

came of this disinterment; and therefore it is called, 
in a triad, one of the " Three Wicked Uncoverings 
of Britain ". 

1 Tennyson : Idylls of the King" Guinevere ". 



Manawyddan was now the sole survivor of the 
family of Llyr. He was homeless and landless. 
But Pryderi offered to give him a realm in Dyfed, 
and his mother, Rhiannon, for a wife. The lady, 
her son explained, was still not uncomely, and her 
conversation was pleasing. Manawyddan seems 
to have found her attractive, while Rhiannon was 
not less taken with the son of Llyr. They were 
wedded, and so great became the friendship of 
Pryderi and Kicva, Manawyddan and Rhiannon, 
that the four were seldom apart. 

One day, after holding a feast at Narberth, they 
went up to the same magic mound where Rhiannon 
had first met Pwyll. As they sat there, thunder 
pealed, and immediately a thick mist sprang up, so 
that not one of them could see the other. When 
it cleared, they found themselves alone in an un- 
inhabited country. Except for their own castle, the 
land was desert and untilled, without sign of dwell- 
ing, man, or beast. One touch of some unknown 
magic had utterly changed the face of Dyfed from 
a rich realm to a wilderness. 

Manawyddan and Pryderi, Rhiannon and Kicva 

i Retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabinogi of Manawyddan, tki 
Son of Llyr. 

The War of Enchantments 299 

traversed the country on all sides, but found nothing 
except desolation and wild beasts. For two years 
they lived in the open upon game and honey. 

During the third year, they grew weary of this 
wild life, and decided to go into Lloegyr 1 , and sup- 
port themselves by some handicraft. Manawyddan 
could make saddles, and he made them so well that 
soon no one in Hereford, where they had settled, 
would buy from any saddler but himself. This 
aroused the enmity of all the other saddlers, and 
they conspired to kill the strangers. So the four 
went to another city. 

Here they made shields, and soon no one would 
purchase a shield unless it had been made by 
Manawyddan and Pryderi. The shield -makers 
became jealous, and again a move had to be made. 

But they fared no better at the next town, where 
they practised the craft of cordwainers, Manawyddan 
shaping the shoes and Pryderi stitching them. So 
they went back to Dyfed again, and occupied them- 
selves in hunting. 

One day, the hounds of Manawyddan and Pryderi 
roused a white wild boar. They chased it till they 
came to a castle at a place where both the hunts- 
men were certain that no castle had been before. 
Into this castle went the boar, and the hounds 
after it. For some time, Manawyddan and Pryderi 
waited in vain for their return. Pryderi then pro- 
posed that he should go into the castle, and see what 
had become of them. Manawyddan tried to dis- 
suade him, declaring that whoever their enemy was 

1 Saxon Britain England 

300 Mythology of the British Islands 

who had laid Dyfed waste had also caused the 
appearance of this castle. But Pryderi insisted 
upon entering. 

In the castle, he found neither the boar nor his 
hounds, nor any trace of man or beast. There was 
nothing but a fountain in the centre of the castle 
floor, and, on the brink of the fountain, a beautiful 
golden bowl fastened to a marble slab by chains. 

Pryderi was so pleased with the beauty of the 
bowl that he put out his hands and took hold of it. 
Whereupon his hands stuck to the bowl, so that he 
could not move from where he stood. 

Manawyddan waited for him till the evening, and 
then returned to the palace, and told Rhiannon. 
She, more daring than her husband, rebuked him 
for cowardice, and went straight to the magic 
castle. In the court she found Pryderi, his hands 
still glued to the bowl and his feet to the slab. 
She tried to free him, but became fixed, herself, and, 
with a clap of thunder and a fall of mist, the castle 
vanished with its two prisoners. 

Manawyddan was now left alone with Kicva, 
Pryderi 's wife. He calmed her fears, and assured 
her of his protection. But they had lost their dogs, 
and could not hunt any more, so they set out to- 
gether to Lloegyr, to practise again Manawyddan's 
old trade of cordwainer. A second time, the envious 
cordwainers conspired to kill them, so they were 
obliged to return to Dyfed. 

But Manawyddan took back a burden of wheat 
with him to Narberth, and sowed three crofts, all of 
which sprang up abundantly. 

The War of Enchantments 301 

When harvest time came, he went to look at his 
first croft, and found it ripe. " I will reap this to- 
morrow," he said. But in the morning he found 
nothing but the bare straw. Every ear had been 
taken away. 

So he went to the next croft, which was also ripe. 
But, when he came to cut it, he found it had been 
stripped like the first. Then he knew that whoever 
had wasted Dyfed, and carried off Rhiannon and 
Pryderi, was also at work upon his wheat. 

The third croft was also ripe, and over this one 
he determined to keep watch. In the evening he 
armed himself and waited. At midnight he heard 
a great tumult, and, looking out, saw a host of mice 
coming. Each mouse bit off an ear of wheat and 
ran off with it, He rushed among them, but could 
only catch one, which was more sluggish than the 
rest. This one he put into his glove, and took it 
back, and showed it to Kicva. 

" To-morrow I will hang it," he said. " It is not 
a fit thing for a man of your dignity to hang a 
mouse/' she replied. " Nevertheless will I do so," 
said he. " Do so then," said Kicva. 

The next morning, Manawyddan went to the 
magic mound, and set up two forks on it, to make a 
gallows. He had just finished, when a man dressed 
like a poor scholar came towards him, and greeted 

" What are you doing, Lord?" he said 

41 1 am going to hang a thief," replied Manaw- 

4 'What sort of a thief? I see an animal like a 

3O2 Mythology of the British Islands 

mouse in your hand, but a man of rank like yours 
should not touch so mean a creature. Let it go 

" I caught it robbing me/' replied Manawyddan, 
"and it shall die a thief's death/' 

" I do not care to see a man like you doing such 
a thing/' said the scholar. " I will give you a pound 
to let it go." 

" I will not let it go/' replied Manawyddan, "nor 
will I sell it." 

"As you will, Lord. It is nothing to me," re- 
turned the scholar. And he went away. 

Manawyddan laid a cross-bar along the forks. 
As he did so, another man came by, a priest riding 
on a horse. He asked Manawyddan what he was 
doing, and was told. " My lord," he said, "such a 
reptile is worth nothing to buy, but rather than see 
you degrade yourself by touching it, I will give you 
three pounds to let it go." 

" I will take no money for it," replied Manaw- 
yddan. "It shall be hanged." 

" Let it be hanged," said the priest, and went his 

Manawyddan put the noose round the mouse's 
neck, and was just going to draw it up, when he saw 
a bishop coming, with his whole retinue. 

"Thy blessing, Lord Bishop," he said. 

" Heaven's blessing upon you," said the bishop. 
"What are you doing?" 

" I am hanging a thief," replied Manawyddan. 
"This mouse has robbed me." 

"Since I happen to have come at its doom, I 

The War of Enchantments 303 

will ransom it," said the bishop. " Here are seven 
pounds. Take them, and let it go/' 

44 I will not let it go," replied Manawyddan. 

11 1 will give you twenty-four pounds of ready 
money if you will let it go," said the bishop. 

" I would not, for as much again," replied 

44 If you will not free it for that," said the bishop, 
44 1 will give you all my horses and their baggage to 
let it go." 

" I will not," replied Manawyddan. 

"Then name your own price," said the bishop, 

44 That offer I accept," replied Manawyddan. 
44 My price is that Rhiannon and Pryderi be set 

44 They shall be set free," replied the bishop. 

44 Still I will not let the mouse go," said Manaw- 

" What more do you ask?" exclaimed the bishop. 

44 That the charm be removed from Dyfed," 
replied Manawyddan. 

11 It shall be removed," promised the bishop. 
44 So set the mouse free." 

44 1 will not," said Manawyddan, "till I know who 
the mouse is." 

44 She is my wife," replied the bishop, "and I am 
called Llwyd, the son of Kilcoed, and I cast the 
charm over Dyfed, and upon Rhiannon and Pryderi, 
to avenge Gwawl son of Clftd for the game of 
4 badger in the bag ' which was played on him by 
Pwyll, Head of Annwn. It was my household that 
came in the guise of mice and took away your corn. 

304 Mythology of the British Islands 

But since my wife has been caught, I will restore 
Rhiannon and Pryderi and take the charm off Dyfed 
if you will let her go." 

" I will not let her go/ 1 said Manawyddan, " until 
you have promised that there shall be no charm put 
upon Dyfed again." 

" I will promise that also," replied Llwyd. "So 
let her go." 

" I will not let her go," said Manawyddan, "unless 
you swear to take no revenge for this hereafter." 

"You have done wisely to claim that," replied 
Llwyd. " Much trouble would else have come 
upon your head because of this. Now I swear it. 
So set my wife free." 

"I will not," said Manawyddan, "until I see 
Rhiannon and Pryderi. 

Then he saw them coming towards him ; and they 
greeted one another. 

" Now set my wife free," said the bishop. 

" I will, gladly," replied Manawyddan. So he 
released the mouse, and Llwyd struck her with a 
wand, and turned her into " a young woman, the 
fairest ever seen ". . 

And when Manawyddan looked round him, he 
saw Dyfed tilled and cultivated again, as it had 
formerly been. 

The powers of light had, this time, the victory. 
Little by little, they increased their mastery over the 
dominion of darkness, until we find the survivors 
of the families of Llyr and Pwyll mere vassals of 



The powers of light were, however, by no means 
invariably successful in their struggles with the 
powers of darkness. Even Gwydion son of Don 
had to serve his apprenticeship to misfortune. As- 
sailing Caer Sidi Hades 1 under one of its many 
titles, he was caught by Pwyll and Pryderi, and 
endured a long imprisonment. 2 The sufferings he 
underwent made him a bard an ancient Celtic idea 
which one can still see surviving in the popular 
tradition that whoever dares to spend a night alone 
either upon the chair of the Giant Idris (the summit 
of Cader Idris, in Merionethshire), or under the 
haunted Black Stone of Arddu, upon the Llanberis 
side of Snowdon, will be found in the morning 
either inspired or mad. 8 How he escaped we are 
not told; but the episode does not seem to have 
quenched his ardour against the natural enemies 
of his kind. 

Helped by his brother, Amaethon, god of agri- 
culture, and his son, Lieu, he fought the Battle of 
Godeu, or " the Trees ", an exploit which is not the 
least curious of Celtic myths. It is known also as 
the Battle of Achren, or Ochren, a name for Hades 

i Or the Celtic Elysium, "a mythical country beneath the waves of the sea". 
See the Spoiling of Annwn, quoted in chap, xxi "The Mythological * Com- 
ing of Arthur ' ". 3 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, pp. 250-251. 

(I? 219) ft* tf 

306 Mythology of the British Islands 

of unknown meaning, but appearing again in the 
remarkable Welsh poem which describes the " Spoil- 
ing of Annwn " by Arthur. The King of Achren 
was Arawn; and he was helped by Brin, who 
apparently had not then made his fatal journey to 
Ireland. The war was made to secure three boons 
for man the dog, the deer, and the lapwing, all of 
them creatures for some reason sacred to the gods 
of the nether world. 

Gwydion was this time not alone, as he appa- 
rently was when he made his first unfortunate recon- 
naissance of Hades. Besides his brother and his 
son, he had an army which he raised for the pur- 
pose. For a leader of Gwydion's magical attain- 
ments there was no need of standing troops. He 
could call battalions into being with a charm, and 
dismiss them when they were no longer needed. 
The name of the battle shows what he did on this 
occasion; and the bard Taliesin adds his testimony: 

11 1 have been in the battle of Godeu, with Lieu and 


They changed the forms of the elementary trees and 

In a poem devoted to it 1 he describes in detail 
what happened. The trees and grasses, he tells us, 
hurried to the fight: the alders led the van, but the 
willows and the quickens came late, and the birch, 
though courageous, took long in arraying himself; 

\ Book of Taliesin VIII, Vol. I, p. 276, of Skcnc. I have followed Skene'i 
translation, with the especial exception of the curious line referring to the bean, so 
translated in D. W. Nash's Taliesin. If a correct rendering of the Welsh original, 
it offers an interesting parallel to certain superstitions of the Greeks concerning 
this vegetable. 

The Victories of Light over Darkness 307 

the elm stood firm in the centre of the battle, 
and would not yield a foot; heaven and earth 
trembled before the advance of the oak-tree, that 
stout door-keeper against an enemy; the heroic 
holly and the hawthorn defended themselves with 
their spikes; the heather kept off the enemy on 
every side, and the broom was well to the front, 
but the fern was plundered, and the furze did not 
do well; the stout, lofty pine, the intruding pear- 
tree, the gloomy ash, the bashful chestnut- tree, the 
prosperous beech, the long -enduring poplar, the 
scarce plum-tree, the shelter -seeking privet and 
woodbine, the wild, foreign laburnum; "the bean, 
bearing in its shade an army of phantoms " ; rose- 
bush, raspberry, ivy, cherry-tree, and medlar all 
took their parts. 

In the ranks of Hades there were equally strange 
fighters. We are told of a hundred-headed beast, 
carrying a formidable battalion under the root of its 
tongue and another in the back of its head; there 
was a gaping black toad with a hundred claws; and 
a crested snake of many colours, within whose flesh 
a hundred souls were tormented for their sins in 
fact, it would need a Dor6 or a Dante to do justice 
to this weird battle between the arrayed magics of 
heaven and hell. 

It was magic that decided its fate. There was 
a fighter in the ranks of Hades who could not be 
overcome unless his antagonist guessed his name 
i peculiarity of the terrene gods, remarks Professor 
Rhys, 1 which has been preserved in our popular 

1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures \ note to p. 245. 

308 Mythology of the British Islands 

fairy tales. Gwydion guessed the name, and sang 
these two verses: 

" Sure-hoofed is my steed impelled by the spur; 
The high sprigs of alder are on thy shield ; 
Br&n art thou called, of the glittering branches! 

"Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle: 
The high sprigs of alder are on thy hand: 
Brdn ... by the branch thou bearest 
Has Amaethon the Good prevailed!" 1 

Thus the power of the dark gods was broken, 
and the sons of Don retained for the use of men 
the deer, the dog, and the lapwing, stolen from that 
underworld, whence all good gifts came. 

It was always to obtain some practical benefit 
that the gods of light fought against the gods of 
darkness. The last and greatest of Gwydion's raids 
upon Hades was undertaken to procure pork! 2 

Gwydion had heard that there had come to Dyfed 
some strange beasts, such as had never been seen 
before. They were called "pigs" or "swine", and 
Arawn, King of Annwn, had sent them as a gift to 
Pryderi son of Pwyll. They were small animals, 
and their flesh was said to be better than the flesh 
of oxen. He thought it would be a good thing to 
get them, either by force or fraud, from the dark 
powers. Math son of Mathonwy, who ruled the 
children of Don from his Olympus of Caer Dathyl 8 , 
gave his consent, and Gwydion set off, with eleven 

1 Lady Guest's translation in her notes to Kulhwch and Olwen. 

* The following episode is retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabin- 
ogi of Mdth> Son of Mathonwy. 

* Now called Pen y Gaer. It is on the summit of a hill half-way between Llan- 
rwst and Conway, and about a mile from the station of Llanbedr. 

The Victories of Light over Darkness 309 

others, to Pryderi's palace 1 . They disguised them- 
selves as bards, so as to be received by Pryderi, 
and Gwydion, who was "the best teller of tales in 
the world ", entertained the Prince of Dyfed and 
his court more than they had ever been entertained 
by any story-teller before. Then he asked Pryderi 
to grant him a boon the animals which had come 
frcm Annwn. But Pryderi had pledged his word 
to Arawn that he would neither sell nor give away 
any of the new creatures until they had increased 
to double their number, and he told the disguised 
Gwydion so. 

" Lord/ 1 said Gwydion, " I can set you free from 
your promise. Neither give me the swine at once, 
nor yet refuse them to me altogether, and to-morrow 
I will show you how." 

He went to the lodging Pryderi had assigned him, 
and began to work his charms and illusions. Out 
of fungus he made twelve gilded shields, and twelve 
horses with gold harness, and twelve black grey- 
hounds with white breasts, each wearing a golden 
collar and leash. And these he showed to Pryderi. 

" Lord," said he, " there is a release from the 
word you spoke last evening concerning the swine 
that you may neither give them nor sell them. 
You may exchange them for something which is 
better. I will give you these twelve horses with 
their gold harness, and these twelve greyhounds 
with their gold collars and leashes, and these twelve 
gilded shields for them." 

1 Said to have been at Rhuddlan Teivi, which is, perhaps, Glan Teivy, near 
Cardigan Bridge. 

310 Mythology of the British Islands 

Pryderi took counsel with his men, and agreed 
to the bargain. So Gwydion and his followers 
took the swine and went away with them, hurrying 
as fast as they could, for Gwydion knew that the 
illusion would not last longer than a day. The 
memory of their journey was long kept up; every 
place where they rested between Dyfed and Caer 
Dathyl is remembered by a name connecting it with 
pigs. There is a Mochdrev (" Swine's Town ") in 
each of the three counties of Cardiganshire, Mont- 
gomeryshire, and Denbighshire, and a Castell y 
Moch (" Swine's Castle ") near Mochnant (" Swine's 
Brook "), which runs through part of the two latter 
counties. They shut up the pigs in safety, and 
then assembled all Math's army; for the horses and 
hounds and shields had returned to fungus, and 
Pryderi, who guessed Gwydion's part in it, was 
coming northward in hot haste. 

There were two battles one at Maenor Penardd, 
near Conway, and the other at Maenor Alun, now 
called Coed Helen, near Caernarvon. Beaten in 
both, Pryderi fell back upon Nant Call, about nine 
miles from Caernarvon. Here he was again de- 
feated with great slaughter, and sent hostages, 
asking for peace and a safe retreat. 

This was granted by Mdth; but, none the less, 
the army of the sons of D6n insisted on following 
the retreating host, and harassing it. So Pryderi 
sent a complaint to Math, demanding that, if there 
must still be war, Gwydion, who had caused all the 
trouble, should fight with him in single combat 

Gwydion agreed, and the champions of light and 


From the Drawing by E, Wai/cousins 

The Victories of Ligkt over Darkness 311 

darkness met face to face. But Pryderi was the 
waning power, and he fell before the strength and 
magic of Gwydion. " And at Maen Tyriawc, above 
Melenryd, was he buried, and there is his grave", 
says the Mabinogi, though the ancient Welsh poem, 
called the "Verses of the Graves of the Warriors" 1 , 
assigns him a different resting-place. 2 

This decisive victory over Hades and its kings 
was the end of the struggle, until it was renewed, 
with still more complete success, by one greater than 
Gwydion the invincible Arthur. 

i Poem XIX in the Black Book of Carmarthen, Vol. I, p. 309, of Skenc. 
1 " In Aber Gwenoli is the grave of Pryderi, 
Where the waves beat against the land." 



The " Coming of Arthur ", his sudden rise into 
prominence, is one of the many problems of the 
Celtic mythology. He is not mentioned in any 
of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, which deal 
with the races of British gods equivalent to the 
Gaelic Tuatha D6 Danann. The earliest references 
to him in Welsh literature seem to treat him as 
merely a warrior-chieftain, no better, if no worse, 
than several others, such as " Geraint, a tributary 
prince of Devon ", immortalized both by the bards 1 
and by Tennyson. Then, following upon this, we 
find him lifted to the extraordinary position of a 
king of gods, to whom the old divine families of 
Don, of Llyr, and of Pwyll pay unquestioned 
homage. Triads tell us that Lludd the Zeus of 
the older Pantheon was one of Arthur's " Three 
Chief War- K nights ", and Arawn, King of Hades, 
one of his " Three Chief Counselling Knights ". In 
the story called the " Dream of Rhonabwy ", in the 
Red Book of Hergest, he is shown as a leader to 
whom are subject those we know to have been of 

i A poem in praise of Geraint, "the brave man from the region of Dyvnaint 
(Devon) . . . the enemy of tyranny and oppression", is contained in both the 
Black Book of Caermarthen and the Red Book of Hergest. ' ' When Geraint was 
born, open were the gates of heaven", begins its last verse. It is translated in 
VoL I of Skene, p. 267. 


The Mythological ( * Coming of A rthur " 313 

divine race sons of Nudd, of Llyr, of Bran, of 
Govannan, and of Arianrod. In another " Red 
Book" tale, that of " Kulhwch and Olwen ", even 
greater gods are his vassals. Amaethon son of 
Don, ploughs for him, and Govannan son of D6n, 
rids the iron, while two other sons of Beli, Nynniaw 
and Peibaw, " turned into oxen on account of their 
sins", toil at the yoke, that a mountain may be 
cleared and tilled and the harvest reaped in one day. 
He assembles his champions to seek the " treasures 
of Britain"; and Manawyddan son of Llyr, Gwyn 
son of Nudd, and Pryderi son of Pwyll rally round 
him at his call 

The most probable, and only adequate explana- 
tion, is given by Professor Rhys, who considers 
that the fames of two separate Arthurs have been 
accidentally confused, to the exceeding renown of 
a composite, half-real, half-mythical personage into 
whom the two blended. 1 One of these was a divine 
Arthur, a god more or less widely worshipped in 
the Celtic world the same, no doubt, whom an 
ex voto inscription found in south-eastern France 
calls Mercurius Artaius? The other was a human 
Arthur, who held among the Britons the post which, 
under Roman domination, had been called Comes 
Britannia. This "Count of Britain" was the 
supreme military authority; he had a roving com- 
mission to defend the country against foreign in- 
vasion; and under his orders wefe two slightly 
subordinate officers, the Dux Britanniarum (Duke 
of the Britains), who had charge of the northern 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend t p. 8. s Rhys: Hibbert Lectures t pp. 40-41. 

Mythology of the British Islands 

wall, and the Comes Littoris Saxonici (Count of 
the Saxon Shore), who guarded the south-eastern 
coasts. The Britons, after the departure of the 
Romans, long kept intact the organization their 
conquerors had built up; and it seems reasonable 
to believe that this post of leader in war was the 
same which early Welsh literature describes as that 
of " emperor ", a title given to Arthur alone among 
the British heroes. 1 The fame of Arthur the 
Emperor blended with that of Arthur the God, 
so that it became conterminous with the area over 
which we have traced Brythonic settlement in Great 
Britain. 2 Hence the many disputes, ably, if un- 
profitably, conducted, over " Arthurian localities " 
and the sites of such cities as Camelot, and of 
Arthur's twelve great battles. Historical elements 
doubtless coloured the tales of Arthur and his com- 
panions, but they are none the less as essentially 
mythic as those told of their Gaelic analogues 
the Red Branch Heroes of Ulster and the Fenians. 
Of those two cycles, it is with the latter that the 
Arthurian legend shows most affinity. 8 Arthur's 
position as supreme war-leader of Britain curiously 
parallels that of Finn's as general of a " native Irish 
militia". His " Round Table" of warriors also 
reminds one of Finn's Fenians sworn to adventure. 
Both alike battle with human and superhuman foes. 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend \ p. 7. 

* " It is worthy of remark that the fame of Arthur is widely spread ; he is claimed 
alike as a prince in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Cumberland, and the Lowlands of 
Scotland; that is to say, his fame is conterminous with the Brythonic race, and 
does not extend to the Gaels". Chambers' $ Encyclopedia. 

1 For Arthurian and Fenian parallels see Campbell's Popular T*fa of the Wut 

The Mythological ' * Coming of A rthur " 315 

Both alike harry Europe, even to the walls of Rome. 
The love-story of Arthur, his wife Gwynhwyvar 
(Guinevere), and his nephew Medrawt (Mordred), 
resembles in several ways that of Finn, his wife 
Grainne, and his nephew Diarmait In the stories 
of the last battles of Arthur and of the Fenians, the 
essence of the kindred myth still subsists, though 
the actual exponents of it slightly differ. At the 
fight of Camlan, it was Arthur and Medrawt them- 
selves who fought the final duel. But in the last 
stand of the Fenians at Gabhra, the original prota- 
gonists have given place to their descendants and 
representatives. Both Finn and Cormac were 
already dead. It is Oscar, Finn's grandson, and 
Cairbr6, Cormac's son, who fight and slay each 
other. And again, just as Arthur was thought by 
many not to have really died, but to have passed 
to " the island valley of Avilion ", so a Scottish 
legend tells us how, ages after the Fenians, a 
man, landing by chance upon a mysterious western 
island, met and spoke with Finn mac Coul. Even 
the alternative legend, which makes Arthur and 
his warriors wait under the earth in a magic sleep 
for the return of their triumph, is also told of the 

But these parallels, though they illustrate Arthur's 
pre-eminence, do not show his real place among 
the gods. To determine this, we must examine the 
ranks of the older dynasties carefully, to see if any 
are missing whose attributes this new-comer may 
have inherited. We find Lludd and Gwyn, Arawn, 
Pryderi, and Manawyddan side by side with him 

316 Mythology of the British Islands 

under their own names. Among the children of 
Don are Amaethon and Govannan. But here the 
list stops, with a notable omission. There is no 
mention, in later myth, of Gwydion. That greatest 
of the sons of Don has fallen out, and vanished 
without a sign. 

Singularly enough, too, the same stories that were 
once told of Gwydion are now attached to the 
name of Arthur. So that we may assume, with 
Professor Rhys, that Arthur, the prominent god of 
a new Pantheon, has taken the place of Gwydion 
in the old. 1 A comparison of Gwydion-myths and 
Arthur-myths shows an almost exact correspondence 
in everything but name. 

Like Gwydion, Arthur is the exponent of culture 
and of arts. Therefore we see him carrying on the 
same war against the underworld for wealth and 
wisdom that Gwydion and the sons of Don waged 
against the sons of Llyr, the Sea, and of Pwyll, the 
Head of Hades. 

Like Gwydion, too, Arthur suffered early reverses. 
He failed, indeed, even where his prototype had 
succeeded. Gwydion, we know from the Mabinogi 
of Math, successfully stole Pryderi's pigs, but Arthur 
was utterly baffled in his attempt to capture the 
swine of a similar prince of the underworld, called 
March son of Meirchion. 2 Also as with Gwydion, 
his earliest reconnaissance of Hades was disastrous, 

i See chap. I of Rhys's Arthurian Legend" Arthur, Historical and Mythical". 

1 A triad in the Hengwrt MS. 536, translated by Skene. It was Trystan who was 
watching the swine for his uncle, while the swineherd went with a message to 
Essylt (Iseult), " and Arthur desired one pig by deceit or by theft, and could not 
get it" 

The Mythological ' ' Coming of A rthur" 317 

and led to his capture and imprisonment. Manaw- 
yddan son of Llyr, confined him in the mysterious 
and gruesome bone-fortress of Oeth and Anoeth, 
and there he languished for three days and three 
nights before a rescuer came in the person of Goreu, 
his cousin. 1 But, in the end, he triumphed. A 
Welsh poem, ascribed to the bard Taliesin, relates, 
under the title " The Spoiling of Annwn ", 2 an ex- 
pedition of Arthur and his followers into the very 
heart of that country, from which he appears to 
have returned (for the verses are somewhat obscure) 
with the loss of almost all his men, but in possession 
of the object of his quest the magic cauldron of 
inspiration and poetry. 

Taliesin tells the story as an eye-witness. He 
may well have done so; for it was his boast that 
from the creation of the world he had allowed him- 
self to miss no event of importance. He was in 
Heaven, he tells us, 8 when Lucifer fell, and in the 
Court of Don before Gwydion was born; he had 
been among the constellations both with Mary 
Magdalene and with the pagan goddess Arianrod; 
he carried a banner before Alexander, and was chief 
director of the building of the Tower of Babel ; he 
saw the fall of Troy and the founding of Rome; he 
was with Noah in the Ark, and he witnessed the 
destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and he was 
present both at the Manger of Bethlehem and at 
the Cross of Calvary. But, unfortunately, Taliesin, 

i Sec note to chap, xxn "The Treasures of Britain". 
* Book of Taliesin, poem xxx, Skene, Vol. I, p. 256. 

' In a probably very ancient poem embedded in the sixteenth-century Welsh 
romance called Taliesin, included by Lady Guest in her Mabinogion< 

318 Mythology of the British Islands 

as a credible personage, rests under exactly the same 
disabilities as Arthur himself. It is not denied by 
scholars that there was a real Taliesin, a sixth- 
century bard to whom were attributed, and who 
may have actually composed, some of the poems in 
the Book of Taliesin. 1 But there was also another 
Taliesin, whom, as a mythical poet of the British 
Celts, Professor Rhys is inclined to equate with the 
Gaelic Ossian. 2 The traditions of the two mingled, 
endowing the historic Taliesin with the god-like attri- 
butes of his predecessor, and clothing the mythical 
Taliesin with some of the actuality of his successor. 8 
It is regrettable that our bard did not at times 
sing a little less incoherently, for his poem contains 
the fullest description that has come down to us of 
the other world as the Britons conceived it. Appa- 
rently the numerous names, all different and some 
now untranslatable, refer to the same place, and 
they must be collated to form a right idea of what 
Annwn was like. With the exception of an obviously 
spurious last verse, here omitted, the poem is mag- 
nificently pagan, and quite a storehouse of British 
mythology 4 . 

1 " The existence of a sixth-century bard of this name, a contemporary of the 
heroic stage of British resistance to the Germanic invaders, is well attested. A 
number of poems are found in mediaeval Welsh MSS., chief among them the so- 
called Book of Taliesin, ascribed to this sixth-century poet. Some of these are 
almost as old as any remains of Welsh poetry, and may go back to the early tenth 
or the ninth century; others are productions of the eleventh, twelfth, and even 
thirteenth centuries." Nutt: Notes to his (1902) edition of Lady Guest's 

2 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 551. 

1 ' ' There can be little doubt but that the sixth-century bard succeeded to the 
form and attributes of a far older, a prehistoric, a mythic singer." Nutt: Notes 
to Mabinogion. 

4 I have been obliged to collate four different translators to obtain an acceptable 
version of what Mr. T. Stephens, in his Literature of the Kymri> calls "one 

The Mythological ' 4 Coming of A rthur" 319 

w I will praise the Sovereign, supreme Lord of the 
Who hath extended his dominion over the shore of the 


Stout was the prison of Gweir 1 , in Caer Sidi, 
Through the spite of Pwyll and Pryderi: 
No one before him went into it. 
The heavy blue chain firmly held the youth, 
And before the spoils of Annwn woefully he sang, 
And thenceforth till doom he shall remain a bard. 
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen 2 we went into it; 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Sidi 8 . 

" Am I not a candidate for fame, to be heard in song 
In Caer Pedryvan 4 , four times revolving? 
The first word from the cauldron, when was it spoken? 
By the breath of nine maidens it was gently warmed. 
Is it not the cauldron of the chief of Annwn? What is 

its fashion? 

A rim of pearls is round its edge. 
It will not cook the food of a coward or one forsworn, 
A sword flashing bright will be raised to him, 
And left in the hand of Lleminawg. 
And before the door of the gate of Uffern 5 the lamp was 


When we went with Arthur a splendid labour! 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vedwyd 6 . 

" Am I not a candidate for fame, to be heard in song 
In Caer Pedryvan, in the Isle of the Strong Door, 
Where twilight and pitchy darkness meet together, 
And bright wine is the drink of the host? 
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen we went on the sea. 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Rigor 7 , 

least intelligible of the mythological poems". My authorities have been Skene, 
Stephens, Nash, and Rhys. * A form of the name Gwydion. 

a The name of Arthur's ship. * Revolving Castle. 

4 Four-cornered Castle. * The Cold Place. 

* Castle of Revelry. 7 Kingly Castle. 

320 Mythology of the British Islands 

* I will not allow much praise to the leaders of literature. 
Beyond Caer Wydyr 1 they saw not the prowess of 


Three-score hundreds stood on the walls; 
It was hard to converse with their watchman. 
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen we went with Arthur; 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Golud 2 . 

" I will not allow much praise to the spiritless. 
They know not on what day, or who caused it, 
Or in what hour of the serene day Cwy was born, 
Or who caused that he should not go to the dales of 


They know not the brindled ox with the broad head- 

Whose yoke is seven-score handbreadths. 
When we went with Arthur, of mournful memory, 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vandwy 8 . 

44 1 will not allow much praise to those of drooping courage, 
They know not on what day the chief arose, 
Nor in what hour of the serene day the owner was born, 
Nor what animal they keep, with its head of silver. 
When we went with Arthur, of anxious striving, 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Ochren 4 ". 

Many of the allusions of this poem will perhaps 
never be explained We know no better than the 
" leaders of literature whom the vainglorious Tali- 
esin taunted with their ignorance and lack of spirit 
in what hour Cwy was born, or even who he was, 
much less who prevented him from going to the 
dales of Devwy, wherever they may have been. 
We are in the dark as much as they were with 

1 Glass Castle. * Castle of Riches. 

1 Meaning is unknown. See chap, xvi " The Gods of the Britons". 

4 Meaning is unknown. See chap, xx "The Victories of Light over Darkness H . 







The Mythological "Coming of Arthur" 321 

regard to the significance of the brindled ox with 
the broad head-band, and of the other animal with 
the silver head. 1 But the earlier portion of the 
poem is, fortunately, clearer, and it gives glimpses 
of a grandeur of savage imagination. The strong- 
doored, foursquare fortress of glass, manned by its 
dumb, ghostly sentinels, spun round in never-ceasing 
revolution, so that few could find its entrance; it 
was pitch-dark save for the twilight made by the 
lamp burning before its circling gate; feasting went 
on there, and revelry, and in its centre, choicest of 
its many riches, was the pearl-rimmed cauldron of 
poetry and inspiration, kept bubbling by the breaths 
of nine British pythonesses, so that it might give 
forth its oracles. To this scanty information we 
may add a few lines, also by Taliesin, and contained 
in a poem called U A Song Concerning the Sons 
of Llyr ab Brochwel Powys ": 

" Perfect is my chair in Caer Sidi : 
Plague and age hurt not him who 's in it 
They know, Manawyddan and Pryderi. 
Three organs round a fire sing before it, 
And about its points are ocean's streams 
And the abundant well above it 
Sweeter than white wine the drink in it." 2 

Little is, however, added by it to our knowledge. 
It reminds us that Annwn was surrounded by the 
sea "the heavy blue chain" which held Gweir so 
firmly; it informs us that the " bright wine" which 

i Unless they should be "the yellow and the brindled bull" mentioned in the 
story of Kulhwch and Olwen. 
* Book of Taliesin, poem xiv. The translation is by Rhys: Arthurian Legend, 

p. 3*- 

( B 219 ) X 

322 Mythology of the British Islands 

was "the drink of the host" was kept in a well; it 
adds to the revelry the singing of the three organs; 
it makes a point that its inhabitants were freed from 
age and death; and, last of all, it shows us, as we 
might have expected, the ubiquitous Taliesin as a 
privileged resident of this delightful region. We 
have two clues as to where the country may have 
been situated. Lundy Island, off the coast of 
Devonshire, was anciently called Ynys Wair^ the 
" Island of Gweir", or Gwydion. The Welsh trans- 
lation of the Seint Great, an Anglo-Norman romance 
embodying much of the old mythology, locates its 
" Turning Castle" evidently the same as Caer Sidi 
in the district around and comprising Puffin Island 
off the coast of Anglesey. 1 But these are slender 
threads by which to tether to firm ground a realm of 
the imagination. 

With Gwydion, too, have disappeared the whole 
of the characters connected with him in that portion 
of the Mabinogi of Math, Son of Mathonwy, which 
recounts the myth of the birth of the sun-god. 
Neither Math himself, nor Lieu Llaw Gyffes, nor 
Dylan, nor their mother, Arianrod, play any more 
part; they have vanished as completely as Gwydion. 
But the essence of the myth of which they were the 
figures remains intact. Gwydion was the father by 
his sister Arianrod, wife of a waning heaven-god 
called Nwyvre (Space), of twin sons, Lieu, a god 
of light, and Dylan, a god of darkness; and we find 
this same story woven into the very innermost tex- 
ture of the legend of Arthur. 2 The new Arianrod, 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 325. a Rhys: Mid., chap. I. 

The Mythological ' * Coming of A rthur" 323 

though called "Morgawse" by Sir Thomas Malory 1 , 
and " Anna" by Geoffrey of Monmouth 2 , is known 
to earlier Welsh myth as "Gwyar" 8 . She was the 
sister of Arthur and the wife of the sky-god, Lludd, 
and her name, which means " shed blood " or "gore", 
reminds us of the relationship of the Morrfgu, the 
war-goddess of the Gaels, to the heaven-god Nuada 4 . 
The new Lieu Llaw Gyffes is called Gwalchmei, that 
is, the " Falcon of May" 6 , and the new Dylan is 
Medrawt, at once Arthur's son and Gwalchmei's 
brother, and the bitterest enemy of both 6 . 

Besides these " old friends with new faces", Arthur 
brings with him into prominence a fresh Pantheon, 
most of whom also replace the older gods of the 
heavens and earth and the regions under the earth. 
The Zeus of Arthur's cycle is called Myrddin, who 
passed into the Norman- French romances as " Mer- 
lin". All the myths told of him bear witness to his 
high estate. The first name of Britain, before it 
was inhabited, was, we learn from a triad, Clas 
Myrddin, that is, " Myrddin's Enclosure". 7 He is 
given a wife whose attributes recall those of the 
consorts of Nuada and Lludd. She is described as 
the only daughter of Coel the British name of the 
Gaulish Camulus, a god of war and the sky and 
was called Elen Lwyddawg, that is, " Elen, Leader 
of Hosts". Her memory is still preserved in Wales 
in connection with ancient roadways; such names 

1 Malory's Morte Dartkur, Book II, chap. 11. 

* Historia Britonum, Book VIII, chap. XX. 

8 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 169. * Rhys: ibid. % p 169. 

5 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 13. * Rhys: ibid., pp. 19-23. 

7 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 168. 

324 Mythology of the British Islands 

as Ffordd Elen (" Elen's Road") and Sarn Elen 
(" Elen's Causeway") seem to show that the paths 
on which armies marched were ascribed or dedicated 
to her. 1 As Myrddin's wife, she is credited with 
having founded the town of Carmarthen (Caer 
Myrddin], as well as the " highest fortress in Arvon", 
which must have been the site near Beddgelert still 
called Dinas Emrys, the "Town of Emrys", one of 
Myrddin's epithets or names. 2 

Professor Rhys is inclined to credit Myrddin, or, 
rather, the British Zeus under whatever name, with 
having been the god especially worshipped at Stone- 
henge. 8 Certainly this impressive temple, ever 
unroofed and open to the sun and wind and rain of 
heaven, would seem peculiarly appropriate to a 
British supreme god of light and sky. Neither are 
we quite without documentary evidence which will 
allow us to connect it with him. Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth 4 , whose historical fictions usually conceal 
mythological facts, relates that the stones which com- 
pose it were erected by Merlin. Before that, they 
had stood in Ireland, upon a hill which Geoffrey 
calls " Mount Killaraus", and which can be identified 
as the same spot known to Irish legend as the "Hill 
of Uisnech", and, still earlier, connected with Balor. 
According to British tradition, the primeval giants 
who first colonized Ireland had brought them from 
their original home on "the farthest coast of Africa ", 

1 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 167. 

8 See Rhys's exposition of the mythological meaning of the Red Book romance 
Of the Dream of Maxen Wledig, in his Hibbert Lectures > pp. 160-175. 
8 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, pp. 192-195. 
* Historia Britonum, Book VIII, chaps. IX-XH. 

The Mythological ' ' Com ing of A rth ur" 325 

on account of their miraculous virtues ; for any water 
in which they were bathed became a sovereign 
remedy either for sickness or for wounds. By the 
order of Aurelius, a half- real, half-mythical king of 
Britain, Merlin brought them thence to England, 
to be set up on Salisbury Plain as a monument to 
the British chieftains treacherously slain by Hengist 
and his Saxons. With this scrap of native informa- 
tion about Stonehenge we may compare the only 
other piece we have the account of the classic 
Diodorus, who called it a temple of Apollo. 1 At 
first, these two statements seem to conflict. But it 
is far from unlikely that the earlier Celtic settlers in 
Britain made little or no religious distinction between 
sky and sun. The sun-god, as a separate personage, 
seems to have been the conception of a comparatively 
late age. Celtic mythology allows us to be present, 
as it were, at the births both of the Gaelic Lugh 
Lamhfada and the British Lieu Llaw Gyffes. 

Even the well-known story of Myrddin's, or Mer- 
lin's final imprisonment in a tomb of airy enchant- 
ment "a tour withouten walles, or withoute eny 
closure " reads marvellously like a myth of the sun 
" with all his fires and travelling glories round 
him ". 2 Encircled, shielded, and made splendid by 
his atmosphere of living light, the Lord of Heaven 
moves slowly towards the west, to disappear at last 
into the sea (as one local version of the myth puts 
it), or on to a far-off island (as another says), or into 
a dark forest (the choice of a third). 3 When the 

1 See chap. IV and Rhys : Hibbert Lectures, p. 194. 

2 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, pp, 158, 159. *lbid.> p, 155. 

326 Mythology of the British Islands 

myth became finally fixed, it was Bardsey Island, off 
the extreme westernmost point of Caernarvonshire, 
that was selected as his last abode. Into it he 
went with nine attendant bards, taking with him 
the " Thirteen Treasures of Britain ", thenceforth 
lost to men. Bardsey Island no doubt derives its 
name from this story; and what is probably an 
allusion to it is found in a first-century Greek writer 
called Plutarch, who describes a grammarian called 
Demetrius as having visited Britain, and brought 
home an account of his travels. He mentioned 
several uninhabited and sacred islands off our coasts 
which he said were named after gods and heroes, 
but there was one especially in which Cronos was 
imprisoned with his attendant deities, and Briareus 
keeping watch over him as he slept; " for sleep was 
the bond forged for him V Doubtless this disin- 
herited deity, whom the Greek, after his fashion, called 
"Cronos", was the British heaven- and sun -god, 
after he had descended into the prison of the west 
Among other new-comers is Kai, who, as Sir 
Kay the Seneschal, fills so large a part in the later 
romances. Purged of his worst offences, and re- 
duced to a surly butler to Arthur, he is but a 
shadow of the earlier Kai who murdered Arthur's 
son Llacheu 2 , and can only be acquitted, through 
the obscurity of the poem that relates the incident, 
of having also carried off, or having tried to carry 
off, Arthur's wife, Gwynhwyvar. 8 He is thought 

1 Plutarch : De Defectu Oraculorum. 

3 The Stint Greal, quoted by Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 61-62. 

*Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 59. 

The Mythological "Coming of Arthur" 327 

to have been a personification of fire, 1 upon the 
strength of a description given of him in the mythi- 
cal romance of " Kulhwch and Olwen ". " Very 
subtle ", it says, " was Kai. When it pleased him 
he could render himself as tall as the highest tree 
in the forest. And he had another peculiarity so 
great was the heat of his nature, that, when it 
rained hardest, whatever he carried remained dry 
for a handbreadth above and a handbreadth below 
his hand; and when his companions were coldest, 
it was to them as fuel with which to light their 

Another personage who owes his prominence in 
the Arthurian story to his importance in Celtic 
myth was March son of Meirchion, whose swine 
Arthur attempted to steal, as Gwydion had done 
those of PryderL In the romances, he has become 
the cowardly and treacherous Mark, king, accord- 
ing to some stories, of Cornwall, but according to 
others, of the whole of Britain, and known to all as 
the husband of the Fair Isoult, and the uncle of 
Sir Tristrem. But as a deformed deity of the 
underworld 2 he can be found in Gaelic as well as in 
British myth. He cannot be considered as origi- 
nally different from More, a king of the Fomors at 
the time when from their Glass Castle they so 
fatally oppressed the Children of Nemed. 3 The 
Fomors were distinguished by their animal features, 
and March had the same peculiarity. 4 When Sir 

i Elton : Origins of English History \ p. 269. 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 12. * Ibid., p. 70. 

4 The name March means "horse ". 

328 Mythology of the British Islands 

Thomas Malory relates how, to please Arthur and 
Sir Launcelot, Sir Dinadan made a song about 
Mark, " which was the worst lay that ever harper 
sang with harp or any other instruments V he does 
not tell us wherein the sting of the lampoon lay. It 
no doubt reminded King Mark of the unpleasant 
fact that he had not like his Phrygian counterpart, 
ass's but horse's ears. He was, in fact, a Celtic 
Midas, a distinction which he shared with one of 
the mythical kings of early Ireland. 2 

Neither can we pass over Urien, a deity of the 
underworld akin to, or perhaps the same as, Bran. s 
Like that son of Llyr, he was at once a god of 
battle and of minstrelsy; 4 he was adored by the 
bards as their patron; 6 his badge was the raven 
(bran, in Welsh); 6 while, to make his identification 
complete, there is ai* extant poem which tells how 
Urien, wounded, ordered his own head to be cut off 
by his attendants. 7 His wife was Modron, 8 known 
as the mother of Mabon, the sun -god to whom 
inscriptions exist as Maponos. Another of the 
children of Urien and Modron is Owain, which was 
perhaps only another name for Mabon. Taliesin 
calls him "chief of the glittering west", 10 and he is 
as certainly a sun-god as his father Urien, "lord of 
the evening V 1 was a ruler of the dark underworld. 

i Morte Darthur. Book X, chap. xxvii. 3 Called Labraid Longsech. 

3 Rhys : Arthurian Legend. See chap. XI "Urien and his Congeners ". 
4 Ibid., p. 260. 8 Ibid.) p. 261. 8 Ibid.> p. 256. 

7 Red Book of Hergest, XII. Rhys: Arthurian Legend ', pp. 253-256. 

8 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 247. * Ibid. 

10 The Death-song of Owain. Taliesin, XLIV, Skene, Vol. I, p. 366. 

11 Book of Taliesin, xxxn. Skene, however, translates the word rendered 
'evening " by Rhys as " cultivated plain ". 

The Mythological " Coming of Arthur" 329 

It is by reason of the pre-eminence of Arthur that 
we find gathered round him so many gods, all 
probably various tribal personifications of the same 
few mythological ideas. The Celts, both of the 
Gaelic and the British branches, were split up into 
numerous petty tribes, each with its own local 
deities embodying the same essential conceptions 
under different names. There was the god of the 
underworld, gigantic in figure, patron alike of 
warrior and minstrel, teacher of the arts of elo- 
quence and literature, and owner of boundless 
wealth, whom some of the British tribes worshipped 
as Brdn, others as Urien, others as Pwyll, or March, 
or Math, or Arawn, or Ogyrvran. There was the 
lord of an elysium Hades in its aspect of a para- 
dise of the departed rather than of the primeval 
subterranean realm where all things originated 
whom the Britons of Wales called Gwyn, or Gwyn- 
was; the Britons of Cornwall, Melwas; and the 
Britons of Somerset, Avallon, or Avallach. Under 
this last title, his realm is called Ynys Avallon, 
"Avallon's Island", or, as we know the word, 
Avilion. It was said to be in the " Land of Summer", 
which, in the earliest myth, signified Hades; and it 
was only in later days that the mystic Isle of 
Avilion became fixed to earth as Glastonbury, and 
the Elysian " Land of Summer " as Somerset. 1 
There was a mighty ruler of heaven, a "god of 
battles ", worshipped on high places, in whose hands 
was "the stern arbitrament of war"; some knew 
him as Lludd, others as Myrddin, or as Emrys. 

1 Rhys : Arthurian Legend^ p. 345. 

330 Mythology of the British Islands 

There was a gentler deity, friendly to man, to help 
whom he fought or cajoled the powers of the under- 
world; Gwydion he was called, and Arthur. Last, 
perhaps, to be imagined in concrete shape, there 
was a long-armed, sharp-speared sun-god who aided 
the culture-god in his work, and was known as Lieu, 
or Gwalchmei, or Mabon, or Owain, or Peredur, 
and no doubt by many another name; and with him 
is usually found a brother representing not light, 
but darkness. This expression of a single idea by 
different names may be also observed in Gaelic 
myth, though not quite so clearly. In the hurtling 
of clan against clan, many such divinities perished 
altogether out of memory, or survived only as names, 
to make up, in Ireland, the vast, shadowy population 
claiming to be Tuatha D Danann, and, in Britain, 
the long list of Arthur's followers. Others gods 
of stronger communities would increase their fame 
as their worshippers increased their territory, until, 
as happened in Greece, the chief deities of many 
tribes came together to form a national Pantheon. 

We have already tried to explain the "Coming 
of Arthur" historically. Mythologically, he came, 
as, according to Celtic ideas, all things came origi- 
nally, from the underworld. His father is called 
Uther Pendragon. 1 But Uther Pendragon is (for 
the word " dragon" is not part of the name, but 
a title signifying "war-leader") Uther Ben, that is, 
Bran, under his name of the "Wonderful Head", 2 
so that, in spite of the legend which describes 

1 Both by Malory and Geoffrey of Mon mouth. 
3 Rhys: Arthurian Legend \ p, 256. 

The Mythological * ( Coming of A rthur" 33 1 

Arthur as having disinterred Bran's head on Tower 
Hill, where it watched against invasion, because he 
thought it beneath his dignity to keep Britain in 
any other way than by valour, 1 we must recognize 
the King of Hades as his father. This being so, it 
would only be natural that he should take a wife 
from the same eternal country, and we need not 
be surprised to find in Gwynhwyvar's father, Ogyr- 
vran, a personage corresponding in all respects to 
the Celtic conception of the ruler of the underworld. 
He was of gigantic size; 2 he was the owner of a 
cauldron out of which three Muses had been born; 8 
and he was the patron of the bards, 4 who deemed 
him to have been the originator of their art More 
than this, his very name, analysed into its original 
ocur vran, means the evil bran, or raven, the bird 
of death. 5 

But Welsh tradition credits Arthur with three 
wives, each of them called Gwynhwyvar. This 
peculiar arrangement is probably due to the Celtic 
love of triads; and one may compare them with the 
three Etains who pass through the mythico-heroic 
story of Eochaid Airem, Etain, and Mider. Of 
these three Gwynhwyvars, 6 besides the Gwynhwy- 
var, daughter of Ogyrvran, one was the daughter of 
Gwyrd Gwent, of whom we know nothing but the 
name, and the other of Gwyrthur ap Greidawl, 

*See chap, xvin "The Wooing of Bran wen and the Beheading of Br&n". 
2 He is called Ogyrvran the Giant. 3 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 326. 

4 Rhys : Hibbert Lectures > pp, 268-269. 

5 Rhys : Lectures on Welsh Philology, p. 306. But the derivation is only tenta- 
tive, and an interesting alternative one is given, which equates him with the Persian 

9 The enumeration of Arthur's three Gwynhwyvars forms one of the Welsh triads. 

332 Mythology of the British Islands 

the same " Victor son of Scorcher 11 with whom 
Gwyn son of Nudd, fought, in earlier myth, per- 
petual battle for the possession of Creudylad, 
daughter of the sky-god Lludd. This same eternal 
strife between the powers of light and darkness for 
the possession of a symbolical damsel is waged 
again in the Arthurian cycle; but it is no longer for 
Creudylad that Gwyn contends, but for Gwynhwy- 
var, and no longer with Gwyrthur, but with Arthur. 
It would seem to have been a Cornish form of 
the myth; for the dark god is called "Melwas", 
and not " Gwynwas ", or "Gwyn", his name in 
Welsh. 1 Melwas lay in ambush for a whole year, 
and finally succeeded in carrying off Gwynhwyvar 
to his palace in Avilion. But Arthur pursued, and 
besieged that stronghold, just as Eochaid Airem 
had, in the Gaelic version of the universal story, 
mined and sapped at Mider's sidh of Bri Leith. 2 
Mythology, as well as history, repeats itself; and 
Melwas was obliged to restore Gwynhwyvar to her 
rightful lord. 

It is not Melwas, however, that in the best- 
known versions of the story contends with Arthur 
for the love of Gwynhwyvar. The most wide- 
spread early tradition makes Arthur's rival his 
nephew Medrawt. Here Professor Rhys traces 
a striking parallel between the British legend of 
Arthur, Gwynhwyvar, and Medrawt, and the Gaelic 
story of Airem, Etain, and Mider. 3 The two myths 
are practically counterparts; for the names of all 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 342. 2 See chap, xi- "The Gods in Exile". 
8 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, chap, n "Arthur and Airem". 

The Mythological * * Coming of A rthur" 333 

the three pairs agree in their essential meaning. 
"Airem", like "Arthur", signifies the " Plough- 
man ", the divine institutor of agriculture; " Etain ", 
the " Shining One ", is a fit parallel to " Gwynhwy- 
var", the "White Apparition "; while "Micler" and 
"Medrawt" both come from the same root, a word 
meaning " to hit ", either literally, or else metaphori- 
cally, with the mind, in the sense of coming to a 
decision. To attempt to explain this myth is to 
raise the vexed question of the meaning of myth- 
ology. Is it day and dark that strive for dawn, or 
summer and winter for the lovely spring, or does it 
shadow forth the rescue of the grain that makes 
man's life from the devouring underworld by the 
farmer's wit? When this can be finally resolved, a 
multitude of Celtic myths will be explained. Every- 
where arise the same combatants for the stolen 
bride; one has the attributes of light, the other is 
a champion of darkness. 

Even in Sir Thomas Malory's version of the 
Arthurian story, taken by him from French ro- 
mances far removed from the original tradition, 
we find the myth subsisting. Medrawt's original 
place as the lover of Arthur's queen had been 
taken in the romances by Sir Launcelot, who, if he 
was not some now undiscoverable Celtic god, 1 must 
have been an invention of the Norman adapters. 
But the story which makes Medrawt Arthur's rival 

1 In the mysterious Lancelot, not found in Arthurian story before the Norman 
adaptations of it, Professor Rhys is inclined to see a British sun-god, or solar hero. 
A number of interesting comparisons are drawn between him and the Peredur and 
Owain of the later " Mabinogion" tales, as well as with the Gaelic Cuchulainn, 
See Studies in the Arthurian Legend. 

334 Mythology of the British Islands 

has been preserved in the account of how Sir 
Mordred would have wedded Guinevere by force, 
as part of the rebellion which he made against his 
king and uncle. 1 This strife was Celtic myth long 
before it became part of the pseudo-history of early 
Britain. The triads 2 tell us how Arthur and Me- 
drawt raided each others courts during the owner's 
absence. Medrawt went to Kelli Wic, in Cornwall, 
ate and drank everything he could find there, and 
insulted Queen Gwynhwyvar, in revenge for which 
Arthur went to Medrawt's court and killed man 
and beast. Their struggle only ended with the 
Battle of Camlan; and that mythical combat, which 
chroniclers have striven to make historical, is full 
of legendary detail. Tradition tells how Arthur 
and his antagonist shared their forces three times 
during the fight, which caused it to be known as 
one of the " Three Frivolous Battles of Britain ", 
the idea of doing so being one of " Britain's Three 
Criminal Resolutions ". Four alone survived the 
fray: one, because he was so ugly that all shrank 
from him, believing him to be a devil; another, 
whom no one touched because he was so beautiful 
that they took him for an angel; a third, whose 
great strength no one could resist; and Arthur 
himself, who, after revenging the death of Gwalch- 
mei upon Medrawt, went to the island of Avilion 
to heal him of his grievous wounds. 

And. thence from the Elysium of the Celts 

1 Morte Darihur, Book XXI, chap. I. 

9 The fullest list of translated triads is contained in the appendix to Probert's 
Ancient Laws of Cambria, 1823. Many are also given as an appendix in Skene's 
Four Ancient Books of Wales. 

The Mythological ' ' Coming of A rthur" 335 

popular belief has always been that he will some 
day return. But just as the gods of the Gaels are 
said to dwell sometimes in the " Land of the 
Living", beyond the western wave, and sometimes 
in the palace of a hollow hill, so Arthur is some- 
times thought to be in Avilion, and sometimes to 
be sitting with his champions in a charmed sleep 
in some secret place, waiting for the trumpet to 
be blown that shall call him forth to reconquer 
Britain. The legend is found in the Eildon Hills; 
in the Snowdon district; at Cadbury, in Somerset, 
the best authenticated Camelot; in the Vale of 
Neath, in South Wales; as well as in other places. 
He slumbers, but he has not died. The ancient 
Welsh poem called " The Verses of the Graves of 
the Warriors" 1 enumerates the last resting-places 
of most of the British gods and demi-gods. " The 
grave of Gwydion is in the marsh of Dinlleu ", the 
grave of Lieu Llaw Gyffes is " under the protection 
of the sea with which he was familiar", and "where 
the wave makes a sullen sound is the grave of 
Dylan"; we know the graves of Prycleri, of Gwalch- 
mei, of March, of Mabon, even of the great Beli, 


" Not wise the thought a grave for Arthur ". 2 

1 Black Book of Caermarthen XI X^ Vol. I, pp. 309-318 in Skene. 
* This is Professor Rhys's translation of the Welsh line, no doubt more strictly 
correct than the famous rendering: " Unknown is the grave of Arthur". 



It is in keeping with the mythological character 
of Arthur that the early Welsh tales recorded of 
him are of a different nature from those which swell 
the pseudo-histories of Nennius 1 and of Geoffrey 
of Monmouth. We hear nothing of that subjuga- 
tion of the countries of Western Europe which fills 
so large a part in the two books of the Historia 
Britonum which Geoffrey has devoted to him. 2 
Conqueror he is, but his conquests are not in any 
land known to geographers. It is against Hades, 
and not against Rome, that he achieves his highest 
triumphs. This is the true history of King Arthur, 
and we may read more fragments and snatches of 
it in two prose-tales preserved in the Red Book of 
Hergest. Both these tales date, in the actual form 
in which they have come down to us, from the 
twelfth century. But, in each of them, the writer 
seems to be stretching out his hands to gather in 
the dying traditions of a very remote past. 

When a Welsh man-at-arms named Rhonabwy 
lay down, one night, to sleep upon a yellow calf-skin, 
the only furniture in a noisome hut, in which he had 
taken shelter, that was comparatively free from 
vermin, he had the vision which is related in the tale 

1 " History of the Britons ", 50. 

1 Geoffrey of Monmouth. Books IX and X, and chaps. I and II of XL 


The Treasures of Britain 337 

called "The Dream of Rhonabwy". 1 He thought 
that he was travelling with his companions towards 
the Severn, when they heard a rushing noise behind 
them, and, looking back, saw a gigantic rider upon 
a monstrous horse. So terrible was the horseman's 
appearance that they all started to run from him. 
But their running was of no avail, for every time 
the horse drew in its breath, it sucked them back to 
its very chest, only, however, to fling them forward 
as it breathed out again. In despair they fell down 
and besought their pursuer's mercy. He granted 
it, asked their names, and told them, in return, his 
own. He was known as Iddawc the Agitator of 
Britain; for it was he who, in his love of war, had 
purposely precipitated the Battle of Camlan. Arthur 
had sent him to reason with Medrawt; but though 
Arthur had charged him with the fairest sayings 
he could think of, Iddawc translated them into the 
harshest he could devise. But he had done seven 
years' penance, and had been forgiven, and was 
now riding to Arthur's camp. Thither he insisted 
upon taking Rhonabwy and his companions. 

Arthur's army was encamped for a mile around 
the ford of Rhyd y Groes, upon both sides of the 
road; and on a small flat island in the middle of the 
river was the Emperor himself, in converse with 
Bedwini the Bishop and Gwarthegyd, the son of 
Kaw. Like Ossian, when he came back to Ireland 
after his three hundred years' sojourn in the " Land 
of Promise ", 2 Arthur marvelled at the puny size of 

1 Translated by Lady Guest in her Mabinogion. 

2 See chap, xiv "Finn and the Fenians". 

(B219) Y 

338 Mythology of the British Islands 

the people whom Iddawc had brought for him to 
look at "And where, Iddawc, didst thou find 
these little men?" " I found them, Lord, up yonder 
on the road" Then the Emperor smiled. " Lord," 
said Iddawc, " wherefore dost thou laugh?" " Idd- 
awc," replied Arthur, "I laugh not; but it pitieth 
me that men of such stature as these should have 
this island in their keeping, after the men that 
guarded it of yore." Then he turned away, and 
Iddawc told Rhonabwy and his companions to keep 
silent, and they would see what they would see. 

The scope of such a book as this allows no space 
to describe the persons and equipments of the 
warriors who came riding down with their com- 
panies to join Arthur, as he made his great march 
to fight the Battle of Badon, thought by some to 
be historical, and located at Bath. The reader who 
turns to the tale itself will see what Rhonabwy saw. 
Many of Arthur's warriors he will know by name: 
Caradawc the Strong-armed, who is here called a 
son, not of Bran, but of Llyr; March son of Meir- 
chion, the underworld king; Kai, described as " the 
fairest horseman in all Arthur's court " ; Gwalchmei, 
the son of Gwyar and of Arthur himself; Mabon, 
the son of Modron; Trystan son of Tallwch, the 
lover of "The Fair Isoult"; Goreu, Arthur's cousin 
and his rescuer from Manawyddan's bone-prison; 
these, and many more, will pass before him, as they 
passed before Rhonabwy during the three days and 
three nights that he slept and dreamed upon the 

This story of the "Dream of Rhonabwy ", elaborate 

The Treasures of Britain 339 

as it is in all its details, is yet, in substance, little 
more than a catalogue. The intention of its un- 
known author seems to have been to draw a series 
of pictures of what he considered to be the principal 
among Arthur's followers. The other story that 
of "Kulhwch and Olwen" also takes this catalogue 
form, but the matters enumerated are of a different 
kind. It is not so much a record of men as of 
things. Not the heroes of Britain, but the treasures 
of Britain are its subject. One might compare it 
with the Gaelic story of the adventures of the three 
sons of Tuirenn. 1 

The " Thirteen Treasures of Britain*' were famous 
in early legend. They belonged to gods and heroes, 
and were current in our island till the end of the 
divine age, when Merlin, fading out of the world, 
took them with him into his airy tomb, never to be 
seen by mortal eyes again. According to tradition, 2 
they consisted of a sword, a basket, a drinking-horn, 
a chariot, a halter, a knife, a cauldron, a whetstone, 
a garment, a pan, a platter, a chess-board, and a 
mantle, all possessed of not less marvellous qualities 
than the apples, the pig-skin, the spear, the horses 
and chariot, the pigs, the hound-whelp, and the 
cooking-spit which the sons of Tuirenn obtained 
for Lugh. 3 It is these same legendary treasures 
that reappear, no doubt, in the story of " Kulhwch 
and Olwen ". The number tallies, for there are 
thirteen of them. Some are certainly, and others 

1 Chap, viii" The Gaelic Argonauts", 

8 The list will be found, translated from an old Welsh MS., in the notes to 
Kulhwch and Olwen t in Lady Guest's Mabinogion. 
8 Chap, via "The Gaelic Argonauts 1 ', 

340 Mythology of the British Islands 

probably, identical with those of the other tradition. 
That there should be discrepancies need cause no 
surprise, for it is not unlikely that there were several 
different versions of their legend. Everyone had 
heard of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. Many, 
no doubt, disputed as to what they were. Others 
might ask whence they came. The story of 
" Kulhwch and Olwen " was composed to tell them. 
They were won by Arthur and his mighty men. 

Kulhwch 1 is the hero of the story and Olwen is 
its heroine, but only, as it were, by courtesy. The 
pair provide a love-interest which, as in the tales of 
all primitive people, is kept in the background. The 
woman, in such romances, takes the place of the 
gold and gems in a modern "treasure-hunt" story; 
she is won by overcoming external obstacles, and 
not by any difficulty in obtaining her own consent. 
In this romance 2 , Kulhwch was the son of a king 
who afterwards married a widow with a grown-up 
daughter, whom his stepmother urged Kulhwch to 
marry. On his modestly replying that he "vas not 
yet of an age to wed, she laid the destiny on him 
that he should never have a wife at all, unless he 
could win Olwen, thr daughter of a terrible father 
called "Hawthorn, Chief of Giants". 8 

The "Chief o r Giants" was as hostile to suitors 
as he was monstrous in shape; and no wonder! for 
he knew that on his daughter's marriage his own 
life would come to an end. Both in this peculiarity 

1 Pronounced Keelhookh. 

1 The following pages sketch out the main incidents of the story as translated 
by Lady Gue$t in her Mabinogion. 3 In Welsh, Yspaddaden Penkawr. 

The Treasures of Britain 341 

and in the description of his ponderous eyebrows, 
which fell so heavily over his eyes that he could not 
see until they had been lifted up with forks, he re- 
minds one of the Fomor, Balor. Of his daughter, 
on the other hand, the Welsh tale gives a descrip- 
tion as beautiful as Olwen was, herself. " More 
yellow was her head than the flower of the broom, 
and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, 
and fairer were her hands and her fingers than the 
blossoms of the wood anemone amidst the spray 
of the meadow r ountain. The eye of the trained 
hawk, the glance of the three - mewed falcon was 
not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more 
snowy than the breast of the white swan, her 
cheek was redder than the reddest roses. Whoso 
beheld her was filled with her love. Four white 
trefoils sprung up wherever she trod. And there- 
fore was she called Olwen." 1 

Kulhwch had no need to see her to fall in love 
with her. He blushed at her very name, and asked 
his father how he could obtain her in marriage. 
His father reminded him that he was Arthur's 
cousin, and advised him to claim Olwen from him 
as a boon. 

So Kulhwch " pricked forth upon a steed with 
head dappled grey, of four winters old, firm of limb, 
with shell-formed hoofs, having a bridle of linked 
gold on his head, and upon him a saddle of costly 
gold. And in the youth's hand were two spears 
of silver, sharp, well - tempered, headed with steel, 

1 I.e. She of the White Track. The beauty of Olwen was proverbial in mediaeval 
Welsh poetry. 

344 Mythology of the British Islands 

The party started for Hawthorn 's castle. With- 
out raising any alarm, they slew the nine porters 
and the nine watch-dogs, and came unhindered into 
the hall. They greeted the ponderous giant, and 
announced the reason of their coming. " Where 
are my pages and my servants? 1 ' he said. " Raise 
up the forks beneath my two eyebrows which have 
fallen over my eyes, so that I may see the fashion 
of my son-in-law/' He glared at them, and told 
them to come again upon the next day. 

They turned to go, and, as they did so, Hawthorn 
seized a poisoned dart, and threw it after them. 
But Bedwyr caught it, and cast it back, wounding 
the giant's knee. They left him grumbling, slept 
at the house of Custennin, and returned, the next 


Again they demanded Olwen from her father, 
threatening him with death if he refused. " Her 
four great-grandmothers, and her four great-grand- 
sires are yet alive," replied Hawthorn; "it is needful 
that I take counsel of them/' So they turned away, 
and, as they went, he flung a second dart, which 
Menw caught, and hurled back, piercing the giant's 

The next time they came, Hawthorn warned them 
not to shoot at him again, unless they desired death. 
Then he ordered his eyebrows to be lifted up, and, 
as soon as he could see, he flung a poisoned dart 
straight at Kulhwch. But the suitor himself caught 
it, and flung it back, so that it pierced Hawthorn's 
eyeball and came out through the back of his head. 
Here again we are reminded of the myth of Lugh 

The Treasures of Britain 345 

and Balor. Hawthorn, however, was not killed, 
though he was very much discomforted. " A cursed 
ungentle son-in-law, truly!" he complained. "As 
long as I remain alive, my eyesight will be the 
worse. Whenever I go against the wind, my eyes 
will water; and peracl venture my head will burn, 
and I shall have a giddiness every new moon. 
Cursed be the fire in which it was forged! Like 
the bite of a mad dog is the stroke of this poisoned 

It was now the turn of Kulhw r ch and his party to 
warn the giant that there must be no more dart- 
throwing. He appeared, indeed, more amenable to 
reason, and allowed himself to be placed opposite 
to Kulhwch, in a chair, to discuss the amount of his 
daughter's bride-price. 

Its terms, as he gradually unfolded them, were 
terrific. The bloocl-fine paid for Cian to Lugh 
seems, indeed, a trifle beside it. To obtain grain, 
for food and liquor at his daughter's wedding, a 
vast hill which he showed to Kulhwch must be 
rooted up, levelled, ploughed, sown, and harvested 
in one day. No one could do this except Amaethon 
son of Don, the divine husbandman, and Govannan 
son of Don, the divine smith, and they must have the 
service of three pairs of magic oxen. He must also 
have returned to him the same nine bushels of flax 
which he had sown in his youth, and which had 
never come up; for only out of this very flax should 
be made the white wimple for Olwen's head. For 
mead, too, he must have honey "nine times sweeter 
than the honey of the virgin swarm". 

346 Mythology of the British Islands 

Then followed the enumeration of the thirteen 
treasures to be paid to him as dowry. Such a list 
of wedding presents was surely never known! No 
pot could hold such honey as he demanded but the 
magic vessel of Llwyr, the son of Llwyryon. There 
would not be enough food for all the wedding-guests, 
unless he had the basket of Gwyddneu Garanhir, 
from which all the men in the world could be fed, 
thrice nine at a time. No cauldron could cook the 
meat, except that of Diwrnach the Gael. The mystic 
drinking-horn of Gwlgawd Gododin must be there, 
to give them drink. The harp of Teirtu, which, like 
the Dagda's, played of itself, must make music for 
them. The giant father-in-law's hair could only be 
shorn with one instrument the tusk of White-tooth, 
King of the Boars, and not even by that unless it 
was plucked alive out of its owner's mouth. Also, 
before the hair could be cut, it must be spread out, 
and this could not be done until it had been first 
softened with the blood of the perfectly black sor- 
ceress, daughter of the perfectly white sorceress, from 
the Source of the Stream of Sorrow, on the borders 
of hell. Nor could the sorceress's blood be kept 
warm enough unless it was placed in the bottles of 
Gwydclolwyn Gorr, which preserved the heat of any 
liquor put into them, though it was carried from the 
east of the world to the west. Another set of bottles 
he must also have to keep milk for his guests in 
those bottles of Rhinnon Rhin Barnawd in which no 
drink ever turned sour. For himself, he required 
the sword of Gwrnach the Giant, which that per- 
sonage would never allow out of his own keeping, 

The Treasures of Britain 347 

because it was destined that he himself should fall 
by it. Last of all, he must be given the comb, the 
razor, and the scissors which lay between the ears 
of Twrch Trwyth, a king changed into the most 
terrible of wild boars. 

It is the chase of this boar which gives the story 
of "Kulhwch and Olwen" its alternative title "The 
Twrch Trwyth". The task was one worthy of gods 
and demi-gods. Its contemplation might well have 
appalled Kulhwch, who, however, was not so easily 
frightened. To every fresh demand, every new 
obstacle put in his way, he gave the same answer: 

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although 
thou mayest think that it will not be easy ". 

Whether it was easy or not will be seen from the 
conditions under which alone the hunt could be 
brought to a successful end. No ordinary hounds 
or huntsmen would avail. The chief of the pack 
must be Drudwyn, the whelp of Greid the son of 
Eri, led in the one leash that would hold him, 
fastened, by the one chain strong enough, to the 
one collar that would contain his neck No hunts- 
man could hunt with this clog except Mabon son 
of Modron; and he had, ages before, been taken 
from between his mother and the wall when he was 
three nights old, and it was not known where he 
was, or even whether he were living or dead. There 
was only one steed that could carry Mabon, namely 
Gwynn Mygdwn, the horse of Gweddw. Two other 
marvellous hounds, the cubs of Gast Rhymhi, must 
also be obtained; they must be held in the only 
leash they would not break, for it would be made 

348 Mythology of the British Islands 

out of the beard of the giant Dissull, plucked from 
him while he was still alive. Even with this, no 
huntsman could lead them except Kynedyr Wyllt, 
who was himself nine times more wild than the 
wildest beast upon the mountains. All Arthur's 
mighty men must come to help, even Gwyn son of 
Nudd, upon his black horse; and how could he be 
spared from his terrible duty of restraining the 
devils in hell from breaking loose and destroying 
the world? 

Here is material for romance indeed! But, un- 
happily, we shall never know the full story of how 
all these magic treasures were obtained, all these 
magic hounds captured and compelled to hunt, all 
these magic huntsmen brought to help. The story 
which Mr. Nutt 1 considers to be, " saving the finest 
tales of the 'Arabian Nights', the greatest romantic 
fairy tale the world has ever known" is not, as we 
have it now, complete. It reads fully enough; but, 
on casting backwards and forwards, between the list 
of feats to be performed and the body of the tale 
which is supposed to relate them all, we find many 
of them wanting. " The host of Arthur ", we are 
told, " dispersed themselves into parties of one and 
two", each party intent upon some separate quest. 
The adventures of some of them have come down, 
but those of others have not. We are told how 
Kai slew Gwrnach the Giant with his own sword; 
how Gwyrthur son of Greidawl, Gwyn's rival for 
the love of Creudylad, saved an anthill from fire, 
and how the grateful ants searched for and found 

1 In his notes to his edition of Lady Guest's Madinogion. Published 1902. 

The Treasures of Britain 349 

the very flax-seeds sown by Hawthorn in his youth; 
how Arthur's host surrounded and took Cast 
Rhymhi's cubs, and how Kai and Bedwyr overcame 
Dissull, and plucked out his beard with wooden 
tweezers, to make a leash for them. We learn how 
Arthur went to Ireland, and brought back the caul- 
dron of Diwrnach the Gael, full of Irish money; how 
White-tusk the Boar-king was chased and killed; 
and how Arthur condescended to slay the perfectly 
black sorceress with his own hand. That others of 
the treasures were acquired is hinted rather than 
said. Most important of all (for so much depended 
on him), we find out where the stolen Mabon was, 
and learn how he was rescued. 

So many ages had elapsed since Mabon had dis- 
appeared that there seemed little hope of ever find- 
ing news of him. Nevertheless Gwrhyr, who spoke 
the languages of all creatures, went to enquire of that 
ancient bird, the Ousel of Cilgwri. But the Ousel, 
though in her time she had pecked a smith's anvil 
down to the size of a nut, was yet too young to have 
heard of Mabon. She sent Gwrhyr to a creature 
formed before her, the Stag of Redynvre. But 
though the Stag had lived to see an oak-sapling 
slowly grow to be a tree with a thousand branches, 
and as slowly decay again till it was a withered 
stump, he had never heard of Mabon. 

Therefore he sent him on to a creature still older 
than himself the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. The 
wood she lived in had been thrice rooted up, and 
had thrice re-sown itself, and yet, in all that immense 
time, she had never heard of Mabon, There was 

350 Mythology of the British Islands 

but one who might have, she told Gwrhyr, and he 
was the Eagle of Gwern Abwy. 

Here, at last, they struck Mabon's trail. "The 
Eagle said: ' I have been here for a great space of 
time, and when I first came hither there was a rock 
here, from the top of which I pecked at the stars 
every evening; and now it is not so much as a span 
high. From that day to this I have been here, and 
I have never heard of the man for whom you inquire, 
except once when I went in search of food as far as 
Llyn Llyw. And when I came there, I struck my 
talons into a salmon, thinking he would serve me as 
food for a long time. But he drew me into the 
deep, and I was scarcely able to escape from him. 
After that I went with my whole kindred to attack 
him, and to try to destroy him, but he sent messen- 
gers, and made peace with me; and came and be- 
sought me to take fifty fish spears out of his back. 
Unless he know something of him whom you seek, 
I cannot tell who may. However, I will guide you 
to the place where he is."' 

It happened that the Salmon did know. With 
every tide he went up the Severn as far as the walls 
of Gloucester, and there, he said, he had found such 
wrong as he had never found anywhere else. So he 
took Kai and Gwrhyr upon his shoulders and carried 
them to the wall of the prison where a captive was 
heard lamenting. This was Mabon son of Modron, 
who was suffering such imprisonment as not even 
Lludd of the Silver Hand or Greid, the son of Eri, 1 

1 So says the text. But a triad quoted by I ,,idy Guest in her notes gives the 
" Three Paramount Prisoners of Britain " differently. ' ' The three supreme prisoners 

The Treasures of Britain 351 

the other two of the " Three Paramount Prisoners 
of Britain ", had endured before him. But it came to 
an end now; for Kai sent to Arthur, and he and his 
warriors stormed Gloucester, and brought Mabon 

All was at last ready for the final achievement 
the hunting of Twrch Trwyth, who was now, with 
his seven young pigs, in Ireland. Before he was 
roused, it was thought wise to send the wizard 
Menw to find out by ocular inspection whether the 
comb, the scissors, and the razor were still between 
his ears. Menw took the form of a bird, and settled 
upon the Boar's head. He saw the coveted trea- 
sures, and tried to take one of them, but Twrch 
Trwyth shook himself so violently that some of the 
venom from his bristles spurted over Menw, who 
was never quite well again from that day. 

Then the hunt was up, the men surrounded him, 
and the dogs were loosed at him from every side. 
On the first day, the Irish attacked him. On the 
second day, Arthur's household encountered him and 
were worsted. Then Arthur himself fought with 
him for nine days and nine nights without even 
killing one of the little pigs. 

A truce was now called, so that Gwrhyr, who 
spoke all languages, might go and parley with him, 
Gwrhyr begged him to give up in peace the comb, 
the scissors, and the razor, which were all that 

of the Island of Britain, Llyr Llediath in the prison of Euroswydd WIedig, and 
Madoc, or Mabon, and Gweir, son of Gweiryoth ; and one more exalted than the 
three, and that was Arthur, who was for three nights in the Castle of Oeth and 
Anoeth, and three nights in the prison of Wen Pendragon, and three nights in the 
dark prison under the stone. And one youth released him from these three prisons ; 
that youth was Goreu the son of Custennin, his cousin." 

352 Mythology of the British Islands 

Arthur wanted But the Boar Trwyth, indignant 
of having been so annoyed, would not. On the 
contrary, he promised to go on the morrow into 
Arthur's country, and do all the harm he could 

So Twrch Trwyth with his seven pigs crossed 
the sea into Wales, and Arthur followed with his 
warriors in the ship " Prydwen ". Here the story 
becomes wonderfully realistic and circumstantial. 
We are told of every place they passed through on 
the long chase through South Wales, and can trace 
the course of the hunt over the map. 1 We know of 
every check the huntsmen had, and what happened 
every time the boars turned to bay. The " casual ty- 
list n of Arthur's men is completely given; and we 
can also follow the shrinking of Twrch Trwyth 's 
herd, as his little pigs fell one by one. None were 
left but Trwyth himself by the time the Severn 
estuary was reached, at the mouth of the Wye. 

Here the hunt came v,p with him, and drove him 
into the water, and in this unfamiliar element he 
was outmatched. Osla Big -Knife 2 , Manawyddan 
son of Llyr, Kacmwri, the servant of Arthur, and 
Gwyngelli caught him by his four feet and plunged 
his head under water, while the two chief huntsmen, 
Mabon son of Modron, and Kyledyr Willt, came, 
one on each side of him, and took the scissors and 
the razor. Before they could get the comb, how- 

1 See Rhys: Celtic Folklore, chap, x " Place-name Stories". 

2 The "big knife" was, we are told in the story, "a short broad dagger. 
When Arthur and his hosts came before a torrent, they would seek for a narrow 
place where they might pass the water, and would lay the sheathed dagger across 
the torrent, and it would form a bridge sufficient for the armies of the thre* islands 
of Britain, and of the three islands adjacent, with their spoil." 

From the Drawing by E. Wallcousinr 

The Treasures of Britain 353 

ever, he shook himself free, and struck out for 
Cornwall, leaving Osla and Kacmwri half-drowned 
in the Severn. 

And all this trouble, we are told, was mere play 
compared with the trouble they had with him in 
Cornwall before they could get the comb. But, at 
last, they secured it, and drove the boar out over 
the deep sea. He passed out of sight, with two 
of the magic hounds in pursuit of him, and none 
of them have ever been heard of since. 

The sight of these treasures, paraded before 
Hawthorn, chief of giants, was, of course, his death- 
warrant. All who wished him ill came to gloat 
over his downfall. But they should have been put 
to shame by the giant, whose end had, at least, a 
certain dignity. "My daughter", he said to Kulhwch, 
" is yours, but you need not thank me for it, but 
Arthur, who has accomplished all this. By my free 
will you should never have had her, for with her I 
lose my life." 

Thereupon they cut off his head, and put it upon 
a pole; and that night the undutiful Olwen became 
Kulhwch's bride. 



It is not, however, by such fragments of legend 
that Arthur is best known to English readers. Not 
Arthur the god, but Arthur the " blameless king ", 
who founded the Table Round, from which he sent 
forth his knights " to ride abroad redressing human 
wrongs V is the figure which the name conjures up. 
Nor is it even from Sir Thomas Malory's Morte 
Darthur that this conception comes to most of us, but 
from Tennyson's Idylls of the King. But Tennyson 
has so modernized the ancient tradition that it retains 
little of the old Arthur but the name. He tells us 
himself that his poem had but very slight relation 


..." that gray king, whose name, a ghost, 
Streams like a cloud, man-shaped, from mountain-peak, 
And cleaves to cairn and cromlech still; or him 
Of Geoffrey's book, or him of Malleor's . . . " ; 2 

but that he merely used the legend to give a sub- 
stantial form to his ideal figure of the perfect 
English gentleman a title to which the original 
Arthur could scarcely have laid claim. Still less 
does there remain in it the least trace of anything 
that could suggest mythology. 

As much as this, however, might be said of 

1 Tennyson's tdyll* of the King; Guinevere. * Ibid. To the Queen, 


The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 355 

Malory's book. We may be fairly certain that the 
good Sir Thomas had no idea that the personages 
of whom he wrote had ever been anything different 
from the Christian knights which they had become 
in the late French romances from which he compiled 
his own fifteenth-century work. The old gods had 
been, from time to time, very completely euhemer- 
ized. The characters of the " Four Branches of the 
Mabinogi " are still recognizable as divine beings. 
In the later Welsh stories, however, their divinity 
merely hangs about them in shreds and tatters, and 
the first Norman adapters of these stories made 
them still more definitely human. By the time 
Malory came to build up his Morte Darthur from 
the foreign romances, they had altered so much that 
the shapes and deeds of gods could only be recog- 
nized under their mediaeval knightly disguises by 
those who had known them in their ancient forms. 
We have chosen Malory 's Morte Darthur, as 
almost the sole representative of Arthurian literature 
later than the Welsh poems and prose stories, for 
three reasons. Firstly, because it is the English 
Arthurian romance par excellence from which all later 
English authors, including Tennyson, have drawn 
their material. Secondly, because the mass of foreign 
literature dealing with the subject of Arthur is in 
itself a life-study, and could not by any possibility 
be compressed within the limits of a chapter. 
Thirdly, because Malory's fine judgment caused 
him to choose the best and most typical foreign 
tales to weave into his own romance; and hence 
it is that we find most of our old British gods both 

356 Mythology of the British Islands 

those of the earlier cycle and those of the system 
connected with Arthur striding disguised through 
his pages. 

Curiously enough, Sir Edward Strachey, in his 
preface to the " Globe " edition of Caxton's Morte 
Darthur, uses almost the same image to describe 
Malory's prose-poem that Matthew Arnold handled 
with such effect, in his Study of Celtic Literature, 
to point out the real nature of the Mabinogion. 
"Malory", he says, "has built a great, rambling, 
mediaeval castle, the walls of which enclose rucle 
and even ruinous work of earlier times/ 1 How 
rude and how ruinous these relics were Malory 
doubtless had not the least idea, for he has com- 
pletely jumbled the ancient mythology. Not only 
do gods of the older and newer order appear to- 
gether, but the same deities, under very often only 
slightly varying names, come up again and again 
as totally different characters. 

Take, for example, the ancient deity of death and 
Hades. As King Brandegore, or Brandegoris (Bran 
of Gower), he brings five thousand mounted men to 
oppose King Arthur; 1 but, as Sir Brandel, or Bran- 
diles (Bran of Gwales 2 ), he is a valiant Knight of 
the Round Table, who dies fighting in Arthur's 
service. 8 Again, under his name of Uther Pen- 
dragon (Uther Ben), he is Arthurs father; 4 though 
as King Ban of Benwyk (the " Square Enclosure", 
doubtless the same as Taliesin's Caer Pedryvan and 

Morte Dartkur, Book I, chap. x. 

Gresholm Island, the scene of "The Entertaining of the Noble Head". 

Morte Darthur, Book XX, chap. vni. 4 Ibid,< Book I, chap. ill. 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 357 

Malory's Carbonek], he is a foreign monarch, who is 
Arthur's ally. 1 Yet again, as the father of Guinevere, 
Ogyrvran has become Leodegrance. 2 As King 
Uriens, or Urience, of Gore (Gower), he marries one 
of Arthur's sisters, 8 fights against him, but finally 
tenders his submission, and is enrolled among his 
knights. 4 Urien may also be identified in the Morte 
Darthur as King Rience, or Ryons, of North Wales, 5 
and as King Nentres of Garloth; 6 while, to crown 
the varied disguises of this Proteus of British gods, 
he appears in an isolated episode as Balan, who fights 
with his brother Balin until they kill one another. 7 

One may generally tell the divinities of the under- 
world in these romances by their connection, not 
with the settled and civilized parts of England, but 
with the wild and remote north and west, and the 
still wilder and remoter islands. Just as Bran and 
Urien are kings of Gower, so Arawn, under the 
corruptions of his name into " Anguish" and " An- 
guissance ", is made King of Scotland or Ireland, 
both countries having been probably confounded, 
as the same land of the Scotti, or Gaels. 8 Pwyll, 
Head of Annwn, we likewise discover under two 
disguises. As Pelles, " King of the Foreign Coun- 
try" 9 and Keeper of the Holy Grail, he is a person- 
age of great mythological significance, albeit the 
real nature of him and his surroundings has been 
overlaid with a Christian veneer as foreign to the 

1 Morte Darthur, Book I, chap. VIII. 2 Ibid., Book I, chap. XVI. 

* Ibid. t Book I, chap. n. 4 Ibid., Book IV, chap. IV. 

* Ibid., Book I, chap. XXIV. 6 Ibid., Book I, chap. II. 
7 ltid.> Book II, chap. xvm. 

* Ibid., Book V, chap. 11; Book VIII, chap, iv ; Book XIX, chap. XI. 
9 Ibid., Book XI, chap. n. 

358 Mythology of the British Islands 

original of Pelles as his own kingdom was to 
Arthur 's knights. The Chief of Hades figures as 
a " cousin nigh unto Joseph of Arimathie", 1 who, 
"while he might ride supported much Christendom, 
and holy church ". 2 He is represented as the father 
of Elayne (Elen 3 ), whom he gives in marriage to 
Sir Launcelot, bestowing upon the couple a residence 
called " Castle Bliant V the name of which, there is 
good evidence to show, is connected with that of 
Pwyll's vassal called Teirnyon Twryf Vliant in the 
first of the Mabinogi. 5 Under his other name of 
" Sir Pelleas" the hero of Tennyson's Idyll of 
Pelleas and Ettarre the primitive myth of Pwyll 
is touched at a different point. After his un- 
fortunate love-passage with Ettarre (or Ettard, as 
Malory calls her), Pelleas is represented as marry- 
ing Nimue, 6 whose original name, which was Rhi- 
annon, reached this form, as well as that of 
" Vivien ", through a series of miscopyings of suc- 
cessive scribes. 7 

With Pelles, or Pelleas, is associated a King 
Pellean, or Pellam, his son, and, equally with him, 
the Keeper of the Grail, who can be no other than 
Pryderi. 8 Like that deity in the Mabinogi of Mdth, 
he is defeated by one of the gods of light. The 
dealer of the blow, however, is not Arthur, as 
successor to Gwydion, but Balin, the Gallo-British 
sun-god Belinus. 9 

1 Morte Darthur, Book XI, chap. II. 3 Ibid., Book XVII, chap, V. 
Ibid., Book XI, chap. 11. 4 Ibid., Book XII, chap. v. 

* Rhys: Arthurian legend, p. 283. * Mortt Darthur, Book IV, chap. XXI11. 
7 Rhys: Arthurian I^tgend^ p. 284 and note. 

1 The subject is treated at length by Professor Rhys in his Arthurian Legend 
chap, xii "Pwyll and Pelles", 9 Morte Darthur, Book II, chap. XV, 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 359 

Another dark deity, Gwyn son of Nudd, we dis- 
cover under all of his three titles. Called variously 
" Sir Gwinas "/ " Sir Guynas ", 2 and " Sir Gwen- 
baus " 8 by Malory, the Welsh Gwynwas (or Gwyn) 
is altogether on Arthur's side. The Cornish Mel- 
was, split into two different knights, divides his 
allegiance. As Sir Melias, 4 or Meleaus, 6 de Lile 
("of the Isle"), he is a Knight of the Round 
Table, though, on the quarrel between Arthur and 
Launcelot, he sides with the knight against the 
king. But as Sir Meliagraunce, or Meliagaunce, 
it is he who, as in the older myth, captures Queen 
Guinevere and carries her off to his castle. 6 Under 
his Somerset name of Avallon, or Avallach, he is 
connected with the episode of the Grail. King 
Evelake 7 is a Saracen ruler who was converted by 
Joseph of Arimathea, and brought by him to Britain. 
In his convert's enthusiasm, he attempted the quest 
of the holy vessel, but was not allowed to succeed. 8 
As a consolation, however, it was divinely promised 
him that he should not die until he had seen a 
knight of his blood in the ninth degree who should 
achieve it This was done by Sir Percivale, King 
Evelake being then three hundred years old. 9 

Turning from deities of darkness to deities of 
light, we find the sky-god figuring largely in the 
Morte Darthur. The Lludd of the earlier myth- 
ology is Malory's King Loth, or Lot, of Orkney, 


1 Morte Darthur, Book I, chap. XII. * Ibid., Book T, chap. xv. 

* Ibid., Book I, chap. IX. 4 Ibid., Book XIII, chap. XII. 

Ibid., Book XIX, chap. XI. 6 Ibid., Book XIX, chap. 11. 

* Ibid., Book XIII, chap. X. Ibid., Book XIV, chap. iv. 

Morte Darthur, Book XIV, chap. IV. 10 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. n. 

360 Mythology of the British Islands 

through an intrigue with whose wife Arthur be- 
comes the father of Sir Mordred. Lot's wife was 
the mother also of Sir Gawain, whose birth Malory 
does not, however, attribute to Arthur, though such 
must have been the original form of the myth. 1 Sir 
Gawain, of the Arthurian legend, is the Gwalchmei 
of the Welsh stories, the successor of the still earlier 
Lieu Llaw Gyffes, just as Sir Mordred -the Welsh 
Medrawt corresponds to Lleu's brother Dylan. 
As Sir Mordred retains the dark character of 
Medrawt, so Sir Gawain, even in Malory, 2 shows 
the attributes of a solar deity. We are told that 
his strength increased gradually from dawn till high 
noon, and then as gradually decreased again a piece 
of pagan symbolism which forms a good example of 
the appositeness of Sir Edward Strachey's figure; 
for it stands out of the mediaeval narrative like an 
ancient brick in some more modern building. 

The Zeus of the later cycle, Emrys or Myrddin, 
appears in the Morte Darthur under both his names. 
The word " Emrys " becomes " Bors ", and King 
Bors of Gaul is made a brother of King Ban of 
Benwyck 3 that is, Bran of the Square Enclosure, 
the ubiquitous underworld god. Myrddin we meet 
under no such disguise. The ever-popular Merlin 
still retains intact the attributes of the sky-god. 
He remains above, and apart from all the knights, 
higher even in some respects than King Arthur, 
to whom he stands in much the same position as 
Mdth does to Gwydion in the Mabinogi. 4 Like 

i Of, cit., pp. 21-22. 2 Morte Darthur, Book IV, chap. xvm. 

* lbid*t Book I, chap. vni. 4 Rhys: Arthurian Legend^ p. 23. 

Hy permission of Frederick Hollyer 

From the Picture by Sir Edward IJuriie-Joiies 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 361 

M4th, he is an enchanter, and, like Mdth, too, who 
could hear everything said in the world, in however 
low a tone, if only the wind met it, he is practically 
omniscient. The account of his final disappearance, 
as told in the Morte Darthur, is only a re-embellish- 
ment of the original story, the nature-myth giving 
place to what novelists call "a feminine interest ". 
Everyone knows how the great magician fell into a 
dotage upon the "lady of the lake " whom Malory 
calls " Nimue ", and Tennyson " Vivien " both 
names being that of " Rhiannon " in disguise. 
" Merlin would let her have no rest, but always he 
would be with her . . . and she was ever passing 
weary of him, and fain would have been delivered 
of him, for she was afeard of him because he was a 
devil's son, and she could not put him away by no 
means. And so on a time it happed that Merlin 
showed to her in a rock whereas was a great 
wonder, and wrought by enchantment, that went 
under a great stone. So, by her subtle working, 
she made Merlin to go under that stone to let her 
wit of the marvels there, but she wrought so there 
for him that he never came out for all the craft 
that he could do. And so she departed and left 
Merlin." 1 

Merlin's living grave is still to be seen at the end 
of the Val des F&es, in the forest of Br^cilien, in 
Brittany. The tomb of stone is certainly but a 
prosaic equivalent for the tower of woven air in 
which the heaven-god went to his rest. Still, it is 
not quite so unpoetic as the leather sack in which 

i Mart* Darthur, Book IV, chap. i. 

362 Mythology of the British Islands 

Rhiannon, the original of Nimue, caught and im- 
prisoned Gwawl, the earlier Merlin, like a badger 
in a bag. 1 

Elen, Myrddin's consort, appears in Malory as 
five different " Elaines ". Two of them are wives 
of the dark god, under his names of " King Ban " 2 
and " King Nentres ", 8 A third is called the 
daughter of King Pellinore, a character of un- 
certain origin. 4 But the two most famous are the 
ladies who loved Sir Launcelot " Elaine the Fair, 
Elaine the lovable, Elaine the lily maid of Astolat ", 6 
and the luckier and less scrupulous Elaine, daughter 
of King Pelles, and mother of Sir Launcelot's son, 
Galahad. 6 

But it is time, now that the most important 
figures of British mythology have been shown under 
their knightly disguises, and their place in Arthurian 
legend indicated, to pass on to some account of the 
real subject-matter of Sir Thomas Malory's romance. 
Externally, it is the history of an Arthur, King of 
Britain, whom most people of Malory's time con- 
sidered as eminently a historical character. Around 
this central narrative of Arthur's reign and deeds 
are grouped, in the form of episodes, the personal 
exploits of the knights believed to have supported 
him by forming a kind of household guard. But, 
with the exception of a little magnified and distorted 
legendary history, the whole cycle of romance may 

i See chap, xvn "The Adventures of the Gods of Hades". 
1 Morte Darthur, Book IV, chap. I. * Jbid. t Book I, chap. II. 

4 Ibid., Book III, chap. xv. 

9 Whose story is told by Tennyson in the Idylls, and by Malory in Book XVIII 
of the Morte Darthur. 6 Morte Darthur> Book XI, chaps, n and in. 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 363 

be ultimately resolved into a few myths, not only 
retold, but recombined in several forms by their 
various tellers. The Norman adapters of the 
Matiere de Bretagne found the British mythology 
already in process of transformation, some of the 
gods having dwindled into human warriors, and 
others into hardly less human druids and magicians. 
Under their hands the British warriors became 
Norman knights, who did their deeds of prowess in 
the tilt-yard, and found their inspiration in the fan- 
tastic chivalry popularized by the Trouveres, while 
the druids put off their still somewhat barbaric 
druidism for the more conventional magic of the 
Latin races. More than this, as soon as the real 
sequence and raison d'etre of the tales had been lost 
sight of, their adapters used a free hand in reweaving 
them. Most of the romancers had their favourite 
characters whom they made the central figure in 
their stories. Sir Gawain, Sir Percival, Sir Tris- 
trem, and Sir Owain (all of them probably once 
local British sun-gods) appear as the most important 
personages of the romances called after their names, 
stories of the doughty deeds of christened knights 
who had little left about them either of Briton or of 

It is only the labours of the modern scholar that 
can bring back to us, at this late date, things long 
forgotten when Malory's book was issued from 
Caxton's press. But oblivion is not annihilation, 
and Professor Rhys points out to us the old myths 
lying embedded in their later setting with almost 
the same certainty with which the geologist can 

364 Mythology of the British Islands 

show us the fossils in the rock. 1 Thus treated, they 
resolve themselves into three principal motifs, pro- 
minent everywhere in Celtic mythology: the birth 
of the sun-god; the struggle between light and 
darkness; and the raiding of the underworld by 
friendly gods for the good of man. 

The first has been already dealt with. 2 It is the 
retelling of the story of the origin of the sun-god 
in the Mabinogi of Math, son of Mdthonwy. For 
Gwydion we now have Arthur; instead of Arianrod, 
the wife of the superannuated sky-god Nwyvre, we 
find the wife of King Lot, the superannuated sky- 
god Lludd; Lieu Llaw Gyffes rises again as Sir 
Gawain (Gwalchmei), and Dylan as Sir Mordred 
(Medrawt); while the wise Merlin, the Jupiter of 
the new system, takes the place of his wise proto- 
type, Math. Connected with this first myth is the 
second the struggle between light and darkness, 
of which there are several versions in the Morte 
Darthur. The leading one is the rebellion of the 
evilly-disposed Sir Mordred against Arthur and Sir 
Gawain; while, on other stages, Balan the dark 
god Bran fights with Balin the sun-god Belinus; 
and the same Balin, or Belinus, gives an almost 
mortal stroke to Pellam, the Pryderi of the older 

The same myth has also a wider form, in which 
the battle is waged for possession of a maiden. 
Thus (to seek no other instances) Gwynhwyvar was 
contended for by Arthur and Medrawt, or, in an 

1 See his Studies in the Arthurian Legend. 

2 See chap, xxi -" The Mythological ' Coming of Arthur ' ". 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 365 

earlier form of the myth, by Arthur and Gwyn. In 
the Morte Darthur, Gwyn, under the corruption of 
his Cornish name Melwas into " Sir Meliagraunce ", 
still captures Guinevere, but it is no longer Arthur 
who rescues her. That task, or privilege, has fallen 
to a new champion. It is Sir Launcelot who follows 
Sir Meliagraunce, defeats and slays him, and rescues 
the fair captive. 1 But Sir Launcelot, it must be 
stated probably to the surprise of those to whom 
the Arthurian story without Launcelot and Queen 
Guinevere must seem almost like the play of 
" Hamlet with Hamlet left out ", is unknown to 
the original tradition. Welsh song and story are 
silent with regard to him, and he is not improbably 

a creation of some Norman romancer who calmlv 


appropriated to his hero's credit deeds earlier told 
of other " knights ". 

But the romantic treatment of these two myths 
by the adapters of the Matiere de Bret ague are of 
smaller interest to us at the present day than that 
of the third. The attraction of the Arthurian story 
lies less in the battles of Arthur or the loves of 
Guinevere than in the legend that has given it its 
lasting popularity the Christian romance of the 
Quest of the Holy Grail. So great and various 
has been the inspiration of this legend to noble 
works both of art and literature that it seems almost 
a kind of sacrilege to trace it back, like all the rest 
of Arthur's story, to a paganism which could not 
have even understood, much less created, its mys- 
tical beauty. None the less is the whole story 

1 Morte Darthur, Book XIX, chaps, i-l*. 

366 Mythology of the British Islands 

directly evolved from primitive pagan myths con- 
cerning a miraculous cauldron of fertility and in- 

In the later romances, the Holy Grail is a 
Christian relic of marvellous potency. It had held 
the Paschal lamb eaten at the Last Supper; 1 and, 
after the death of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea had 
filled it with the Saviour's blood. 2 But before it 
received this colouring, it had been the magic caul- 
dron of all the Celtic mythologies the Dagda's 
11 Undry " which fed all who came to it, and from 
which none went away unsatisfied; 3 Brdn's cauldron 
of Renovation, which brought the dead back to life; 4 
the cauldron of Ogyrvran the Giant, from which the 
Muses ascended; 6 the cauldrons captured by Cuchu- 
lainn from the King of the Shadowy City, 6 and by 
Arthur from the chief of Hades; 7 as well as several 
other mythic vessels of less note. 

In its transition from pagan to Christian form, 
hardly one of the features of the ancient myth has 
been really obscured. We may recount the chief 
attributes, as Taliesin tells them in his " Spoiling of 
Annwn", of the cauldron captured by Arthur. It was 
the property of Pwyll, and of his son Pryderi, who 
lived in a kingdom of the other world called, among 
other titles, the " Revolving Castle ", the " Four- 
cornered Castle ", the " Castle of Revelry ", the 

*Morte Darthur, Book XVII, chap. XX. 

*lbid., Book II, chap, xvi; Book XI, chap. xiv. 

See chap, v " The Gods of the Gaels ". 

4 See chap, xvm " The Wooing of Branwen and the Beheading of Br&n" 

See chap, xxi " The Mythological ' Coming of Arthur ' ". 

See chap, xn -" The Irish Iliad ". 

7 Chap xxi "The Mythological 'Coming of Arthur ' ", 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 367 

" Kingly Castle", the " Glass Castle", and the 
" Castle of Riches ". This place was surrounded by 
the sea, and in other ways made difficult of access; 
there was no lack of wine there, and its happy 
inhabitants spent with music and feasting an exist- 
ence which neither disease nor old age could assail. 
As for the cauldron, it had a rim of pearls around 
its edge; the fire beneath it was kept fanned by the 
breaths of nine maidens; it spoke, doubtless in 
words of prophetic wisdom; and it would not cook 
the food of a perjurer or coward. 1 Here we have 
considerable data on which to base a parallel be- 
tween the pagan cauldron and the Christian Grail. 
Nor have we far to go in search of corre- 
spondences, for they are nearly all preserved in 
Malory's romance. The mystic vessel was kept by 
King Pelles, who is Pwyll, in a castle called " Car- 
bonek ", a name which resolves itself, in the hands 
of the philologist, into Caer bannawg, the " square" 
or " four - cornered castle" in other words, the 
Caer Pedryvan of Taliesin's poem. 2 Of the char- 
acter of the place as a " Castle of Riches " and a 
" Castle of Revelry ", where " bright wine was the 
drink of the host ", we have more than a hint in the 
account, twice given, 8 of how, upon the appearance 
of the Grail borne, it should be noticed, by a 
maiden or angel the hall was filled with good 
odours, and every knight found on the table all the 
kinds of meat and drink he could imagine as most 

i Chap, xxi" The Mythological * Coming of Arthur ' ". 
a Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 305. 

Darthur, Book XI, chaps, n an4 IV, 

368 Mythology of the British Islands 

desirable. It could not be seen by sinners, 1 a 
Christian refinement of the savage idea of a pot 
that would not cook a coward's food; but the sight 
of it alone would cure of wounds and sickness those 
who approached it faithfully and humbly, 2 and in its 
presence neithei old age nor sickness could oppress 
them. 8 And, though in Malory we find no refer- 
ence either to the spot having been surrounded by 
water, or to the castle as a "revolving" one, we 
have only to turn from the Morte Darthur to the 
romance entitled the Seint Greal to discover both. 
Gwalchmei, going to the castle of King Peleur 
(Pryderi), finds it encircled by a great water, while 
Peredur, approaching the same place, sees it turning 
with greater speed than the swiftest wind. More- 
over, archers on the walls shoot so vigorously that 
no armour can resist their shafts, which explains 
how it happened that, of those that went with 
Arthur, "except seven, none returned from Caer 
Sidi "/ 

It is noticeable that Arthur himself never at- 
tempts the quest of the Grail, though it was he 
who had achieved its pagan original We find in 
Malory four competitors for the mantle of Arthur 
Sir Pelleas, 5 Sir Bors, Sir Percivale, and Sir 
Galahad. 6 The first of these may be put out of 
court at once, Sir Pelleas, who, being himself Pelles, 

1 Morte Darthur, Book XVI, chap. V. 

ilbid.t Book XI, chap, xiv; Book XII, chap. IV; Book XIII, chap, xvili. 
8 Not mentioned by Malory, but stated in the romance called Seint Greal. 
4 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 276-277; 302. 
* Mortc Darthur, Book IV, chap. XXIX. 

*/bid. t Book XVII, chap, xx, in which Sir Bors, Sir Percivale, and Sir Galahad 
aje all fed from the Sangreal 

The Gods as King Arthur s Knights 369 

or Pwyll, the keeper of it, could have had no 
reason for such exertions. At the second we may 
look doubtfully; for Sir Bors is no other than 
Emrys, or Myrddin, 1 and, casting back to the 
earlier British mythology, we do not find the 
sky -god personally active in securing boons by 
force or craft from the underworld. The other 
two have better claims Sir Percivale and Sir 
Galahad. "Sir Percivale " is the Norman- French 
name for Peredur, 2 the hero of a story in the Red 
Book of Hergest 8 which gives the oldest form of 
a Grail quest we have. It is anterior to the Nor- 
man romances, and forms almost a connecting-link 
between tales of mythology and of chivalry. Pere- 
dur, or Sir Percivale, therefore, is the oldest, most 
primitive, of Grail seekers. On the other hand, Sir 
Galahad is the latest and youngest. But there is 
reason to believe that Galahad, in Welsh " Gwal- 
chaved ", the " Falcon of Summer ", is the same 
solar hero as Gawain, in Welsh " Gwalchmei ", the 
" Falcon of May ". 4 Both are made, in the story 
of "Kulhwch and Olwen", sons of the same mother, 
Gwyar. Sir Gawain himself is, in one Arthurian 
romance, the achiever of the Grail. 5 It is needless 
to attempt to choose between these two. Both 
have the attributes of sun-gods. Gwalchmei, the 
successor of Lieu Llaw Gyffes, and Peredur Paladr- 
hir, that is to say, the " Spearman with the Long 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend ', p. 162. *Ibid. t p. 133. 

Translated by Lady Guest in her Mabinogion, under the title of Peredur, the 
Son of Evrawc. 

4 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 169. But see whole of chap, vili "Galahad 
and Gwalchaved". 

B The German romance Din Krdnc, by Heinrich von dem Tdrlin. 

(B219) IA 

37 Mythology of the British Islands 

Shaft", 1 may be allowed to claim equal honours. 
What is important is that the quest of the Grail, 
once the chief treasure of Hades, is still accom- 
plished by one who takes in later legend the place 
of Lieu Llaw Gyffes and Lugh Lamhfada in the 
earlier British and Gaelic myths as a long-armed 
solar deity victorious in his strife against the Powers 
of Darkness. 

1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend t p. 71. 



If there be love of fame in celestial minds, those 
gods might count themselves fortunate who shared 
in the transformation of Arthur. Their divinity 
had fallen from them, but in their new roles, as 
heroes of romance, they entered upon vivid reincar- 
nations. The names of Arthur's Knights might 
almost be described as " household words", while 
the gods who had no portion in the Table Round 
are known only to those who busy themselves with 
antiquarian lore. It is true that a few folk-tales 
still survive in the remoter parts of Wales, in which 
the names of such ancient British deities as Gwydion, 
Gwyn, Arianrod, and Dylan appear, but it is in 
such a chaos of jumbled and distorted legend that 
one finds it hard to pick out even the slenderest 
thread of story. They have none of the definite 
coherence of the contemporary Gaelic folk-tales 
quoted in a previous chapter as still preserving 
the myths about Goibniu, Lugh, Cian, Mananndn, 
Ethniu, and Balor. Indeed, they have reached such 
a stage of disintegration that they can hardly now 
survive another generation. 1 

There have been, however, other paths by which 
the fame of a god might descend to a posterity 

1 See, for example, a folk-tale, pp. 117-123 in Rhys's Celtic Folklore, 

Mythology of the British Islands 

which would no longer credit his divinity. The 
rolls of early British history were open to welcome 
any number of mythical personages, provided that 
their legends were attractive. Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth's famous Historia Britonum is, under its 
grave pretence of exact history, as mythological as 
the Morte Darthur, or even the Mabinogion. The 
annals of early British saintship were not less 
accommodating. A god whose tradition was too 
potent to be ignored or extinguished was canonized, 
as a matter of course, by clerics who held as an 
axiom that " the toleration of the cromlech facili- 
tated the reception of the Gospel. 1 " Only the most 
irreconcilable escaped them such a one as Gwyn 
son of Nudd, who, found almost useless by Geoffrey 
and intractable by the monkish writers, remains the 
last survivor of the old gods dwindled to the pro- 
portions of a fairy, but unsubdued. 

This part of resistance is perhaps the most digni- 
fied ; for deities can be sadly changed by the caprices 
of their euhemerizers. Don, whom we knew as the 
mother of the heaven gods, seems strangely described 
as a king of Lochlin and Dublin, who led the Irish 
into north Wales in A.D. 267. 2 More recognizable 
is his son Gwydion, who introduced the knowledge 
of letters into the country of his adoption. The 
dynasty of " King" Don, according to a manuscript 
in the collection of Mr. Edward Williams better 
known under his bardic name of lolo Morganwg 
held north Wales for a hundred and twenty-nine 

1 Stephens's Preliminary Dissertation to his translation of Aneurin's Gododin. 
8 hi* MSS,, p. 471. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 373 

years, when the North British king, Cunedda, in- 
vaded the country, defeated the Irish in a great 
battle, and drove them across sea to the Isle of Man. 
This battle is historical, and, putting D6n and Gwy- 
dion out of the question, probably represented the 
last stand of the Gael, in the extreme west of Britain, 
against the second and stronger wave of Celtic in- 
vasion. In the same collection of lolo Manuscripts 
is found a curious, and even comic, euhemeristic 
version of the strange myth of the Bone Prison of 
Oeth and Anoeth which Manawyddan son of Llyr, 
built in Gower. The new reading makes that ghastly 
abode a real building, constructed out of the bones of 
the " Caesarians " (Romans) killed in battle with the 
Cymri. It consisted of numerous chambers, some of 
large bones and some of small, some above ground 
and some under. Prisoners of war were placed in 
the more comfortable cells, the underground dun- 
geons being kept for traitors to their country. 
Several times the " Caesarians " demolished the 
prison, but, each time, the Cymri rebuilt it stronger 
than before. At last, however, the bones decayed, 
and, being spread upon the ground, made an excel- 
lent manure! " From that time forth" the people of 
the neighbourhood "had astonishing crops of wheat 
and barley and of every other grain for many years". 1 
It is not, however, in these, so to speak, un- 
authorized narratives that we can best refind our 
British deities, but in the compact, coherent, and 
at times almost convincing Historia Britonum of 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, published in the first half of 

1 lolo MSS. t pp. 597-600. 

374 Mythology of the British Islands 

the twelfth century, and for hundreds of years gravely 
quoted as the leading authority on the early history 
of our islands. The modern critical spirit has, of 
course, relegated it to the region of fable. We can 
no longer accept the pleasant tradition of the descent 
of the Britons from the survivors of Troy, led west- 
ward in search of a new home by Brutus, the great- 
grandson of the pious tineas. Nor indeed does 
any portion of the "History", from yneas to Athel- 
stan, quite persuade the latter-day reader. Its 
kings succeed one another in plausible sequence, 
but they themselves are too obviously the heroes 
of popular legend. 

A large part of Geoffrey's chronicle two books 1 
out of twelve is, of course, devoted to Arthur. In 
it he tells the story of that paladin's conquests, not 
only in his own country, against the Saxons, the 
Irish, the Scots, and the Picts, but over all western 
Europe. We see the British champion, after annex- 
ing Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, and the Orkneys, 
following up these minor victories by subduing Nor- 
way, Dacia (by which Denmark seems to have been 
meant), Aquitaine, and Gaul. After such triumphs 
there was clearly nothing left for him but the over- 
throw of the Roman empire; and this he had prac- 
tically achieved when the rebellion of Mordred 
brought him home to his death, or rather (for even 
Geoffrey does not quite lose hold of the belief in 
the undying Arthur) to be carried to the island of 
Avallon to be healed of his wounds, the crown of 
Britain falling to " his kinsman Constantine, the son 

1 Hutoria Britonum. Books IX, X, and chaps. I and H of XI. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 375 

of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, in the five hundred 
and forty-second year of our Lord's incarnation". 1 
Upon the more personal incidents connected with 
Arthur, Geoffrey openly professes to keep silence, 
possibly regarding them as not falling within the 
province of his history, but we are told shortly how 
Mordred took advantage of Arthur's absence on the 
Continent to seize the throne, marry Guanhamara 
(Guinevere), and ally himself with the Saxons, only 
to be defeated at that fatal battle called by Geoffrey 
"Cambula", in which Mordred, Arthur, and Walgan 
the " Sir Gawain" of Malory and the Gwalchmei 
of the earlier legends all met their dooms. 

We find the gods of the older generation stand- 
ing in the same position with regard to Arthur in 
Geoffrey's " History " as they do in the later Welsh 
triads and tales. Though rulers, they are yet his 
vassals. In " three brothers of royal blood", called 
Lot, Urian, and Augusel, who are represented as 
having been chiefs in the north, we may discern 
Lludd, Urien, and Arawn. To these three Arthur 
restored "the rights of their ancestors", handing 
over the semi-sovereignty of Scotland to Augusel, 
giving Urian the government of Murief (Moray), 
and re-establishing Lot " in the consulship of Lou- 
donesia (Lothian), and the other provinces belong- 
ing to him". 2 Two other rulers subject to him are 
Gunvasius, King of the Orkneys, and Malvasius, 
King of Iceland, 8 in whom we recognize Gwyn, 

i Historia Britonum, Book XI, chap. n. f Ibid. t Book IX, chap. IX. 
* Ibid., Book IX, chap. xn. They appear also as Guanius, King of the Huns, 
and Melga, King of the Picts, in Book V, chap. xvi. 

376 Mythology of the British Islands 

under Latinized forms of his Welsh name Gwynwas 
and his Cornish name Melwas. But it is char- 
acteristic of Geoffrey of Monmouth's loose hold 
upon his materials that, not content with having 
connected several of these gods with Arthur's period, 
he further endows them with reigns of their own. 
" Urien" was Arthur's vassal, but "Urianus" was 
himself King of Britain centuries before Arthur 
was born. 1 Lud (that is, Lludd) succeeded his father 
Beli. 2 We hear nothing of his silver hand, but 
we learn that he was " famous for the building of 
cities, and for rebuilding the walls of Trinovantum 8 , 
which he also surrounded with innumerable towers 
. . . and though he had many other cities, yet he 
loved this above them all, and resided in it the 
greater part of the year; for which reason it was 
afterwards called Kaerlud, and by the corruption 
of the word, Caerlondon; and again by change of 
languages, in process of time, London; as also 
by foreigners who arrived here, and reduced this 
country under their subjection, it was called 
Londres. At last, when he was dead, his body 
was buried by the gate which to this time is 
called in the British tongue after his name 
Parthlud, and in the Saxon, Ludesgata." He was 
succeeded by his brother, Cassibellawn (Cassi- 
velaunus), during whose reign Julius Caesar first 
invaded Britain. 

Lludd, however, is not entirely dependent upon 
Geoffrey of Monmouth for his reputation as a king 

i Historia Britonuw, Book III, chap. XIX. * Ibid< % Book III, chap. XX. 
1 I.e. J/ondon, under its traditionary earlier name, Troja Nova, given it by Brutus. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 377 

of Britain. One of the old Welsh romances, 1 trans- 
lated by Lady Charlotte Guest in her Mabinogion, 
relates the rebuilding of London by Lludd in 
almost the same words as Geoffrey. The story 
which these pseudo-historical details introduce is, 
however, an obviously mythological one. It tells 
us how, in the days of Lludd, Britain was oppressed 
by three plagues. The first was the arrival of a 
strange race of sorcerers called the " Coranians", 2 
who had three qualities which made them un- 
popular; they paid their way in " fairy money", 
which, though apparently real, returned afterwards 
like the shields, horses, and hounds made by 
Gwydion son of Don, to deceive Pryderi into 
the fungus out of which it had been charmed by 
magic; they could hear everything that was said 
over the whole of Britain, in however low a tone, 
provided only that the wind met it; and they 
could not be injured by any weapon. The second 
was "a shriek that came on every May eve, over 
every hearth in the Island of Britain, and went 
through people's hearts and so scared them that the 
men lost their hue and their strength, and the women 
their children, and the young men and the maidens 
their senses, and all the animals and trees and the 
earth and the waters were left barren". The third 
was a disappearance of the food hoarded in the 
king's palace, which was so complete that a year's 
provisions vanished in a single night, and so mys- 
terious that no one could ever find out its cause. 

1 The Story of Lludd and Llevelys. 

1 The name means "dwarfs". Rhy; Hibbert Lectures % p. 606, 

378 Mythology of the British Islands 

By the advice of his nobles, Lludd went to France 
to obtain the help of its king, his brother Llevelys, 
who was "a man great of counsel and wisdom ". 
In order to be able to consult with his brother with- 
out being overheard by the Coranians, Llevelys 
caused a long tube of brass to be made, through 
which they talked to one another. The sorcerer 
tribe, however, got to know of it, and, though they 
could not hear what was being said inside the speak- 
ing-tube, they sent a demon into it, who whispered 
insulting messages up and down it, as though from 
one brother to the other. But Lludd and Llevelys 
knew one another too well to be deceived by this, 
and they drove the demon out of the tube by flood- 
ing it with wine. Then Llevelys told Lludd to take 
certain insects, which he would give him, and pound 
them in water. When the water was sufficiently 
permeated with their essence, he was to call both 
his own people and the Coranians together, as 
though for a conference, and, in the midst of the 
meeting, to cast it over all of them alike. The 
water, though harmless to his own people, would 
nevertheless prove a deadly poison to the Coranians. 

As for the shriek, Llevelys explained it to be 
raised by a dragon. This monster was the Red 
Dragon of Britain, and it raised the shriek because 
it was being attacked by the White Dragon of the 
Saxons, which was trying to overcome and destroy 
it. The French king told his brother to measure 
the length and breadth of Britain, and, when he 
had found the exact centre of the island, to cause 
a pit to be dug there. In this pit was to be placed 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 379 

a vessel containing the best mead that could be 
made, with a covering of satin over it to hide it 
Lludd was then to watch from some safe place. 
The dragons would appear and fight in the air 
until they were exhausted, then they would fall 
together on to the top of the satin cloth, and so 
draw it down with them into the vessel full of 
mead. Naturally they would drink the mead, 
and, equally naturally, they would then sleep. As 
soon as Lludd was sure that they were helpless, 
he was to go to the pit, wrap the satin cloth round 
both of them, and bury them together in a stone 
coffin in the strongest place in Britain. If this 
were safely done, there would be no more heard 
of the shriek. 

And the disappearance of the food was caused 
by "a mighty man of magic", who put everyone 
to sleep by charms before he removed the king's 
provisions. Lludd was to watch for him, sitting 
by the side of a cauldron full of cold water. As 
often as he felt the approach of drowsiness, he 
was to plunge into the cauldron. Thus he would 
be able to keep awake and frustrate the thief. 

So Lludd came back to Britain. He pounded the 
insects in the water, and then summoned both the 
men of Britain and the Coranians to a meeting. In 
the midst of it, he sprinkled the water over everyone 
alike. The natives took no harm from this mytho- 
logical " beetle powder ", but the Coranians died. 

Lludd was then ready to deal with the dragons. 
His careful measurements proved that the centre 
of the island of Britain was at Oxford, and there he 

380 Mythology of the British Islands 

caused the pit to be dug, with the vessel of mead in 
it, hidden by the satin covering. Having made every- 
thing ready, he watched, and soon saw the dragons 
appear. For a long time they fought desperately 
in the air; then they fell down together on to the 
satin cloth, and, drawing it after them, subsided 
into the mead. Lludd waited till they were quite 
silent, and then pulled them out, folded them care- 
fully in the wrapping, and took them to the district 
of Snowdon, where he buried them in the strong 
fortress whose remains, near Beddgelert, are still 
called " Dinas Emrys ". After this the terrible 
shriek was not heard again until Merlin had them 
dug up, five hundred years later, when they recom- 
menced fighting, and the red dragon drove the 
white one out of Britain. 

Last of all, Lludd prepared a great banquet in 
his hall, and watched over it, armed, with the 
cauldron of water near him. In the middle of the 
night, he heard soft, drowsy music, such as nearly 
put him to sleep; but he kept awake by repeatedly 
dipping himself in the cold water. Just before dawn 
a huge man, clad in armour, came into the hall, 
carrying a basket, which he began to load with the 
viands on the table. Like the bag in which Pwyll 
captured Gwawl, its holding capacity seemed end- 
less. However, the man filled it at last, and was 
carrying it out, when Lludd stopped him. They 
fought, and Lludd conquered the man of magic, and 
made him his vassal. Thus the " Three Plagues 
of Britain " came to an end. 

Lludd, in changing from god to king, seems to 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 381 

have lost most of his old mythological attributes. 
Even his daughter Creudylad is taken from him and 
given to another of the ancient British deities. Why 
Lludd, the sky-god, should have been confounded 
with Llyr, the sea-god, is not very apparent, but it is 
certain that " Creudylad " of the early Welsh legends 
and poems is the same as Geoffrey's " Cordeilla" 
and Shakespeare's " Cordelia ". The great dramatist 
was ultimately indebted to the Celtic mythology for 
the groundwork of the legend which he wove into 
the tragic story of King Lear. " Leir ", as Geoffrey 
calls him, 1 was the son of Bladud, who built Caer 
Badus (Bath), and perished, like Icarus, as the re- 
sult of an accident with a flying-machine of his own 
invention. Having no sons, but three daughters, 
Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordeilla, he thought in his 
old age of dividing his kingdom among them. But, 
first of all, he decided to make trial of their affection 
for him, with the idea of giving the best portions of 
his realm to the most worthy. Gonorilla, the eldest, 
replied to his question of how much she loved him, 
"that she called heaven to witness, she loved him 
more than her own soul ". Regan answered " with 
an oath, 'that she could not otherwise express her 
thoughts, but that she loved him above all creatures'". 
But when it came to Cordeilla's turn, the youngest 
daughter, disgusted with her sisters' hypocrisy, spoke 
after a quite different fashion. "'My father/ said 
she, * is there any daughter that can love her father 
more than duty requires? In my opinion, whoever 
pretends to it, must disguise her real sentiments 

1 tfistoria Britonum, Book II, chap. X-XJV. 

382 Mythology of the British Islands 

under the veil of flattery. I have always loved you 
as a father, nor do I yet depart from my purposed 
duty; and if you insist to have something more 
extorted from me, hear now the greatness of my 
affection, which I always bear you, and take this 
for a short answer to all your questions; look how 
much you have, so much is your value, and so much 
do I love you/" Her enraged father immediately 
bestowed his kingdom upon his two other daughters, 
marrying them to the two highest of his nobility, 
Gonorilla to Maglaunus, Duke of Albania 1 , and 
Regan to Henuinus, Duke of Cornwall. To Cor- 
deilla he not only refused a share in his realm, but 
even a dowry. Aganippus, King of the Franks, 
married her, however, for her beauty alone. 

Once in possession, Leir's two sons-in-law rebelled 
against him, and deprived him of all regal authority. 
The sole recompense for his lost power was an agree- 
ment by Maglaunus to allow him maintenance, with 
a body-guard of sixty soldiers. But, after two years, 
the Duke of Albania, at his wife Gonorilla's instiga- 
tion, reduced them to thirty. Resenting this, Leir 
left Maglaunus, and went to Henuinus, the husband 
of Regan. The Duke of Cornwall at first received 
him honourably, but, before a year was out, com- 
pelled him to discharge all his attendants except 
five. This sent him back in a rage to his eldest 
daughter, who, this time, swore that he should not 
stay with her, unless he would be satisfied with one 
serving -man only. In despair, Leir resolved to 
throw himself upon the mercy of Cordeilla, and, full 

\ Alba, or North BriUin. 




w - 

-3 6 


The Decline and Fall of the Gads 383 

of contrition for the way he had treated her, and of 
misgivings as to how he might be received, took 
ship for Gaul. 

Arriving at Karitia 1 , he sent a messenger to his 
daughter, telling her of his plight and asking for her 
help. Cordeilla sent him money, robes, and a retinue 
of forty men, and, as soon as he was fully equipped 
with the state suitable to a king, he was received in 
pomp by Aganippus and his ministers, who gave the 
government of Gaul into his hands until his own 
kingdom could be restored to him. This the king 
of the Franks did by raising an army and invading 
Britain. Maglaunus and Henuinus were routed, 
and Leir replaced on the throne, after which he 
lived three years. Cordeilla, succeeding to the 
government of Britain, " buried her father in a 
certain vault, which she ordered to be made for him 
under the River Sore, in Leicester (" Llyr-cestre "), 
and which had been built originally under the ground 
to the honour of the god Janus. And here all the 
workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity 
of that festival, used to begin their yearly labours. " 

Exactly what myth is retold in this history of 
Leir and his three daughters we are hardly likely 
ever to discover. But its mythological nature is 
clear enough in the light of the description of the 
underground temple dedicated to Llyr, at once the 
god of the subaqueous, and therefore subterranean, 
world and a British Dis Pater, connected with the 
origin of things, like the Roman god Janus, with 
whom he was apparently identified. 8 

i Now Calais. * Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 131-133 

384 Mythology of the British Islands 

Ten kings or so after this (for any more exact 
way of measuring the flight of time is absent from 
Geoffrey's History) we recognize two other British 
gods upon the scene. Brennius (that is, Br&n) 
disputes the kingdom with his brother Belinus. 
Clearly this is a version of the ancient myth of 
the twin brothers, Darkness and Light, which we 
have seen expressed in so many ways in Celtic 
mythology. Bran, the god of death and the under- 
world, is opposed to Belinus, god of the sun and 
health. In the original, lost myth, probably they 
alternately conquered and were conquered a symbol 
of the alternation of night and day and of winter and 
summer. In Geoffrey's History^, they divided Bri- 
tain, Belinus taking "the crown of the island with 
the dominions of Loegria, Kambria, and Cornwall, 
because, according to the Trojan constitution, the 
right of inheritance would come to him as the elder ", 
while Brennius, as the younger, had " Northumber- 
land, which extended from the River H umber to 
Caithness". But flatterers persuaded Brennius to 
ally himself with the King of the Norwegians, and 
attack Belinus. A battle was fought, in which 
Belinus was conqueror, and Brennius escaped to 
Gaul, where he married the daughter of the Duke 
of the Allobroges, and on that ruler's death was 
declared successor to the throne. Thus firmly 
established with an army, he invaded Britain again. 
Belinus marched with the whole strength of the king- 
dom to meet him, and the armies were already drawn 

1 fiistoria Briton urn, Book III, chaps. i-X. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 385 

out opposite to one another in battle array when 
Conwenna, the mother of the two kings, succeeded in 
reconciling them. Not having one another to fight 
with, the brothers now agreed upon a joint expedition 
with their armies into Gaul. The Britons and the 
Allobroges conquered all the other kings of the 
Franks, and then entered Italy, destroying villages 
and cities as they marched to Rome. Gabius and 
Porsena, the Roman consuls, bought them off with 
large presents of gold and silver and the promise of 
a yearly tribute, whereupon Brennius and Belinus 
withdrew their army into Germany and began to 
devastate it. But the Romans, now no longer taken 
by surprise and unprepared, came to the help of the 
Germans. This brought Brennius and Belinus back 
to Rome, which, after a long siege, they succeeded 
in taking. Brennius remained in Italy, " where he 
exercised unheard-of tyranny over the people "; and 
one may take the whole of this veracious history to 
be due to a patriotic desire to make out the Brennus 
of "Vae Victis" fame who actually did sack Rome, 
in B.C. 390 a Briton. Belinus, the other brother, 
returned to England. " He made a gate of wonder- 
ful structure in Trinovantum, upon the bank of the 
Thames, which the citizens call after his name 
Billingsgate to this day. Over it he built a pro- 
digiously large tower, and under it a haven or quay 
for ships. ... At last, when he had finished his 
days, his body was burned, and the ashes put up in 
a golden urn, which they placed at Trinovantum, 
with wonderful art, on the top of the tower above 
mentioned/' He was succeeded by Gurgiunt Brab- 

(B219) 2B 

386 Mythology of the British Islands 

true, 1 who, as he was returning by way of the 
Orkneys from a raid on the Danes, met the ships of 
Partholon and his people as they came from Spain 
to settle in Ireland. 2 

Llyr and his childi^n, large as they bulk in mythi- 
cal history, were hardly less illustrious as saints. 
The family of Llyr Llediath is always described by 
the early Welsh hagiologists as the first of the 
14 Three chief Holy Families of the Isle of Britain". 
The glory of Llyr himself, however, is but a reflected 
one; for it was his son Bran "the Blessed" who 
actually introduced Christianity into Britain. Legend 
tells us that he was taken captive to Rome with his 
son Caradawc (who was identified for the purpose 
with the historical Caratacus), and the rest of his 
family, and remained there seven years, during 
which time he became converted to the Gospel, and 
spread it enthusiastically on his return. Neither his 
son Caradawc nor his half-brother Manawyddan 
exactly followed in his footsteps, but their descend- 
ants did. Caradawc's sons were all saintly, while 
his daughter Eigen, who married a chief called Sarr- 
log, lord of Caer Sarrlog (Old Sarum), was the first 
female saint in Britain. Manawyddan's side of the 
family was less adaptable. His son and his grand- 
son were both pagans, but his great-grandson 
obtained Christian fame as St. Dyfan, who was 
sent as a bishop to Wales by Pope Eleutherius, 
and was martyred at Merthyr Dyvan. After this, 
the saintly line of Llyr increases and flourishes. 

1 The same fabulous personage, perhaps, as the original of Rabelais 1 GarganttWr 
a popular Celtic god. 2 Historia Britonum % Book III, Chaps, xi-xu, 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 387 

Singularly inappropriate persons are found in it 
Mabon, the Gallo- British Apollo, as well as Geraint 
and others of King Arthur's court. 1 

It is so quaint a conceit that Christianity should 
have been, like all other things, the gift of the Celtic 
Hades, that it seems almost a pity to cast doubt on 
it. The witness of the classical historians sums up, 
however, dead in its disfavour. Tacitus carefully 
enumerates the family of Caratacus, and describes 
how he and his wife, daughter, and brother were 
separately interviewed by the Emperor Claudius, 
but makes no mention at all of the chieftain's sup- 
posed father Brdn. Moreover, Dio Cassius gives 
the name of Caratacus's father as Cunobelinus 
Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" who, he adds, had 
died before the Romans first invaded Britain. The 
evidence is wholly against Bran as a Christian 
pioneer. He remains the grim old god of war and 
death, " blessed " only to his pagan votaries, and 
especially to the bards, who probably first called him 
Bendigeid Vran, and whose stubborn adherence 
must have been the cause of the not less stubborn 
efforts of their enemies, the Christian clerics, to 
bring him over to their own side by canonization. 2 

They had an easier task with Bran's sister, Bran- 
wen of the " Fair Bosom". Goddesses, indeed, seem 
to have stood the process better than gods witness 
11 Saint" Brigit, the "Mary of the Gael". The 

i See the lolo MSS. The genealogies and families of the saints of the island of 
Britain. Copied by lolo Morganwg in 1783 from the Long Book of Thomas Truman 
of Pantlliwydd in the parish of Llansanor in Glamorgan, p. 515, &c. Also see 
An Essay on the Welsh Saints by the Rev. Rice Rees, Sections IV and V, 

3 Rhys : Arthurian Legend, pp. 261-262. 

388 Mythology of the British Islands 

British Aphrodit6 became, under the name of Bryn- 
wyn, or Dwynwen, a patron saint of lovers. As 
late as the fourteenth century, her shrine at Llan- 
dwynwyn, in Anglesey, was the favourite resort of 
the disappointed of both sexes, who came to pray 
to her image for either success or forgetfulness. To 
make the result the more certain, the monks of the 
church sold Lethean draughts from her sacred well. 
The legend told of her is that, having vowed herself 
to perpetual celibacy, she fell in love with a young 
chief called Maelon. One night, as she was praying 
for guidance in her difficulty, she had a vision in 
which she was offered a goblet of delicious liquor as 
a draught of oblivion, and she also saw the same 
sweet medicine given to Maelon, whom it at once 
froze into a block of ice. She was then, for her 
faith, offered the granting of three boons. The first 
she chose was that Maelon might be allowed to re- 
sume his natural form and temperature; the second, 
that she should no longer desire to be married; and 
the third, that her intercessions might be granted 
for all true-hearted lovers, so that they should either 
wed the objects of their affection or be cured of 
their passion. 1 From this cause came the virtues of 
her shrine and fountain. But the modern generation 
no longer flocks there, and the efficacious well is 
choked with sand. None the less, she whom the 
Welsh bards called the " Saint of Love" 2 still 
has her occasional votaries. Country girls of the 

1 lolo MSS, p. 474. 

* "The Welsh bards call Dwynwen the goddess, or saint of love and affection, 
as the poets designate Venus." lolo MSS. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 389 

neighbourhood seek her help when all else fails. 
The water nearest to the church is thought to be 
the best substitute for the now dry and ruined 
original well. 1 

A striking contrast to this easy victory over 
paganism is the stubborn resistance to Christian 
adoption of Gwyn son of Nudd. It is true that he 
was once enrolled by some monk in the train of the 
" Blessed Bran ", 2 but it was done in so half-hearted 
a way that, even now, one can discern that the 
writer felt almost ashamed of himself. His fame 
as at least a powerful fairy was too vital to be 
thus tampered with. Even Spenser, though, in his 
Faerie Qiieene, he calls him "the good Sir Guyon 
... in whom great rule of Temp'raunce goodly doth 
appeare ", 3 does not attempt to conceal his real 
nature. It is no man, but 

" an Elfin born, of noble state 
And mickle worship in his native land", 4 

who sets forth the beauties of that virtue for which 
the original Celtic paradise, with its unfailing ale 
and rivers of mead and wine, would hardly seem 
to have been the best possible school. Save for 
Spenser, all authorities agree in making Gwyn the 
determined opponent of things Christian. A curious 
and picturesque legend 5 is told of him in connection 
with St. Collen, who was himself the great-grandson 
of Bran's son, Caradawc. The saint, desirous of 

1 Wirt Sikes : British Goblins, p. 350. * lolo MSS, p. 523. 

3 The Faerie Queene, Prologue to Book II. 4 Ibid. t Book II, canto I, verse 6. 
5 Published in Y Great (London, 1805), an d * s to be found quoted in Rhys: 
Arthurian Legend, pp. 338, 339; also in Sikes: British Goblins t pp. 7-8, 

390 Mythology of the British Islands 

still further retirement from the world, had made 
himself a cell beneath a rock near Glastonbury Tor, 
in Gwyn's own " island of Avilion ". It was close 
to a road, and one day he heard two men pass by 
talking about Gwyn son of Nudd, and declaring 
him to be King of Annwn and the fairies. St. 
Collen put his head out of the cell, and told them to 
hold their tongues, and that Gwyn and his fairies 
were only demons. The two men retorted by 
warning the saint that he would soon have to meet 
the dark ruler face to face. They passed on, and 
not long afterwards St. Collen heard someone 
knocking at his door. On asking who was there, 
he got the answer: " I am here, the messenger of 
Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Hades, to bid thee come 
by the middle of the day to speak with him on the 
top of the hill." The saint did not go; and the 
messenger came a second time with the same mes- 
sage. On the third visit, he added a threat that, if 
St. Collen did not come now, it would be the worse 
for him. So, a little disquieted, he went, but not 
unarmed. He consecrated some water, and took 
it with him. 

On other days the top of Glastonbury Tor had 
always been bare, but on this occasion the saint 
found it crowned by a splendid castle. Men and 
maidens, beautifully dressed, were going in and 
out. A page received him and told him that the 
king was waiting for him to be his guest at dinner. 
St. Collen found Gwyn sitting on a golden chair in 
front of a table covered with the rarest dainties and 
wines. He invited him to share them, adding that 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 391 

if there was anything he especially liked, it should 
be brought to him with all honour. " I do not eat 
the leaves of trees/' replied the saint, who knew 
what fairy meats and drinks were made of. Not 
taken aback by this discourteous answer, the King 
of Annwn genially asked the saint if he did not 
admire his servants* livery, which was a motley 
costume, red on one side and blue on the other. 
" Their dress is good enough for its kind/' said St. 
Collen. " What kind is that?" asked Gwyn. "The 
red shows which side is being scorched, and the 
blue shows which side is being frozen, " replied the 
saint, and, splashing his holy water all round him, 
he saw castle, serving-men, and king vanish, leaving 
him alone on the bare, windy hill-top. 

Gwyn, last of the gods of Annwn, has evidently by 
this time taken over the functions of all the others. 
He has the hounds which Arawn once had the 
Cwn Annwn, " dogs of hell ", with the white bodies 
and the red ears. We hear more of them in folk- 
lore than we do of their master, though even their 
tradition is dying out with the spread of newspapers 
and railways. We are not likely to find another 
Reverend Edmund Jones 1 to insist upon belief in 
them, lest, by closing our minds to such manifest 
witnesses of the supernatural world, we should 
become infidels. Still, we may even now find 
peasants ready to swear that they have heard them 
sweeping along the hill-sides upon stormy nights, as 
they pursued the flying souls of unshriven men or 

i A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Prin- 
cipality of Wales. Published at Newport, 1813. 

392 Mythology of the British Islands 

unbaptized babes. The tales told of them agree 
curiously. Their cry is like that of a pack of fox- 
hounds, but softer in tone. The nearer they are to 
a man, the less loud their voices seem, and the 
farther off they are, the louder. But they are less 
often seen than heard, and it has been suggested 
that the sounds were the cries of migrating bean- 
geese, which are not unlike those of hounds in 
chase. The superstition is widely spread. The 
Cwn Annwn of Wales are called in North Devon 
the "Yeth" (Heath or Heathen), or "Yell" 
Hounds, and on Dartmoor, the "Wish" Hounds. 
In Durham and Yorkshire they are called "Gabriel" 
Hounds, and they are known by various names in 
Norfolk, Gloucestershire, and Cornwall. In Scot- 
land it is Arthur who leads the Wild Hunt, and the 
tradition is found over almost the whole of western 

Not many folk - tales have been preserved in 
which Gwyn is mentioned by name. His memory 
has lingered longest and latest in the fairy-haunted 
Vale of Neath, so close to his " ridge, the Tawe abode 
. . . not the nearest Tawe . . . but that Tawe which 
is the farthest ". But it may be understood when- 
ever the king of the fairies is mentioned. As the 
last of the greater gods of the old mythology, he 
has been endowed by popular fancy with the rule of 
all the varied fairy population of Britain, so far, at 
least, as it is of Celtic or pre-Celtic origin. For 
some of the fairies most famous in English literature 
are Teutonic. King Oberon derives his name, 
through the French fabliaux, from Elberich, the 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 393 

dwarf king of the Niebelungenlied? though his 
queen, Titania, was probably named out of Ovid's 
Metamorphoses? Puck, another of Shakespeare's 
fays, is merely the personification of his race, the 
"pwccas" of Wales, " pookas" of Ireland, "poakes" 
of Worcestershire, and "pixies" of the West of 
England. 8 It is Wales that at the present time 
preserves the most numerous and diverse collection 
of fairies. Some of them are beautiful, some hid- 
eous; some kindly, some malevolent. There are 
the gentle damsels of the lakes and streams called 
Gwragedd Annwn, and the fierce and cruel moun- 
tain fairies known as the Gwyllion. There are the 
household sprites called Bwbachod, like the Scotch 
and English " brownies "; the Coblynau, or gnomes 
of the mines (called "knockers" in Cornwall); and 
the Ellyllon, or elves, of whom the pwccas are a 
branch. 4 In the North of England the spirits 
belong more wholly to the lower type. The bogles, 
brownies, killmoulis, redcaps, and their like seem 
little akin to the higher, Aryan -seeming fairies. 
The Welsh bwbach, too, is described as brown and 
hairy, and the coblynau as black or copper-faced. 
We shall hardly do wrong in regarding such 
spectres as the degraded gods of a pre- Aryan race, 
like the Irish leprechauns and pookas, who have 
nothing in common with the still beautiful, still 
noble figures of the Tuatha D6 Danann. 

Of these numberless and nameless subjects of 
Gwyn, some dwell beneath the earth or under the 

i Thistleton Dyer : Folklore of Shakespeare, p. 3. * Ibid. , p. 4. 

*Ibid., p. $. 4 Wirt Sikes: British Goblins, p, 12. 

394 Mythology of the British Islands 

surface of lakes which seem to take, in Wales, the 
place of the Gaelic " fairy hills " and others in 
Avilion, a mysterious western isle of all delights 
lying on or just beneath the sea. Pembrokeshire 
the ancient Dyfed has kept the tradition most 
completely. The story goes that there is a certain 
square yard in the hundred of Cemmes in that county 
which holds the secret of the fairy realm. If a man 
happens to set his feet on it by chance, his eyes are 
opened, and he can see that which is hidden from 
other men the fairy country and commonwealth, 
but, the moment he moves from the enchanted spot, 
he loses the vision, and he can never find the same 
place again. 1 That country is upon the sea, and 
not far from shore; like the Irish paradise of .which 
it is the counterpart, it may sometimes be sighted 
by sailors. The " Green Meadows of Enchant- 
ment " are still an article of faith among Pembroke- 
shire and Caermarthenshire sailors, and evidently 
not without some reason. In 1896 a correspondent 
of the Pembroke County Guardian sent in a report 
made to him by a certain Captain John Evans to 
the effect that, one summer morning, while trending 
up the Channel, and passing Gresholm Island (the 
scene of the entertaining of Bran's head), in what 
he had always known as deep water, he was sur- 
prised to see to windward of him a large tract of 
land covered with a beautiful green meadow. It 
was not, however, above water, but two or three 
feet below it, so that the grass waved or swam about 
as the ripple floated over it, in a way that made one 

1 The Brython, Vol. I, p. 130. 

The Decline and Fall of the Gods 395 

who watched it feel drowsy. Captain Evans had 
often heard of the tradition of the fairy island from 
old people, but admitted that he had never hoped to 
see it with his own eyes. 1 As with the " Hounds of 
Annwn " one may suspect a quite natural explana- 
tion. Mirage is at once common enough and rare 
enough on our coasts to give rise to such a legend, 
and it must have been some such phenomenon as 
the "Fata Morgana " of Sicily which has made 
sober men swear so confidently to ocular evidence of 
the Celtic Paradise, whether seen from the farthest 
western coasts of Gaelic Ireland or Scotland, or of 
British Wales. 

4 Rhys: Celtic Folklore, pp, 17 1-170. 





The fall of the Celtic state worship began earlier 
in Britain than in her sister island. Neither was it 
Christianity that struck the first blow, but the rough 
humanity and stern justice of the Romans. That 
people was more tolerant, perhaps, than any the 
world has ever known towards the religions of 
others, and gladly welcomed the Celtic gods as 
gods into its own diverse Pantheon. A friendly 
Gaulish or British divinity might at any time be 
granted the so-to-speak divine Roman citizenship, 
and be assimilated to Jupiter, to Mars, to Apollo, or 
to any other properly accredited deity whom the 
Romans deemed him to resemble. It was not 
against the god, but against his worship at the hands 
of his priests, that Roman law struck. The colossal 
human sacrifices of the druids horrified even a 
people who were far from squeamish about a little 
bloodshed. They themselves had abolished such 
practices by a decree of the senate before Caesar 
first invaded Britain, 1 and could not therefore permit 
within their empire a cult which slaughtered men 
in order to draw omens from their death-agonies. 2 
Druidism was first required to be renounced by 

1 In the year 55 B.C. a Strat>o> Book IV, chap. |Y* 


400 Mythology of the British Islands 

those who claimed Roman citizenship; then it was 
vigorously put down among the less civilized tribes. 
Tacitus tells us how the Island of Mona (Anglesey) 
the great stronghold of druidism was attacked, 
its sacred groves cut down, its altars laid level, and 
its priests put to the sword. 1 Pliny, recording how 
the Emperor Tiberius had " suppressed the druids", 
congratulates his fellow-countrymen on having put 
an end, wherever their dominion extended, to the 
monstrous customs inspired by the doctrine that the 
gods could take pleasure in murder and cannibalism. 2 
The practice of druidism, with its attendant barbari- 
ties, abolished in Britain wherever the long Roman 
arm could reach to strike, took refuge beyond the 
Northern Wall, among the savage Caledonian 
tribes who had not yet submitted to the invader's 
yoke. Naturally, too, it remained untouched in 
Ireland, But before the Romans left Britain, it had 
been extirpated everywhere, except among "the 
Picts and Scots ". 

Christianity, following the Roman rule, completed 
the ruin of paganism in Britain, so far, at least, as 
its public manifestations were concerned. In the 
sixth century of our era, the monkish writer, Gildas, 
is able to refer complacently to the ancient British 
religion as a dead faith. " I shall not ", he says, 
"enumerate those diabolical idols of my country, 
which almost surpassed in number those of Egypt, 
and of which we still see some mouldering away 
within or without the deserted temples, with stiff 
and deformed features as was customary. Nor will 

1 Annals, Book XIV, chap. xxx. * Natural History, Book XXX. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 401 

I cry out upon the mountains, fountains, or hills, or 
upon the rivers, which now are subservient to the 
use of men, but once were an abomination and 
destruction to them, and to which the blind people 
paid divine honour/' 1 And with the idols fell the 
priests. The very word " druid " became obsolete, 
and is scarcely mentioned in the earliest British 
literature, though druids are prominent characters 
in the Irish writings of the same period. 

The secular arm had no power in Scotland and 
in Ireland, consequently the battle between Paganism 
and Christianity was fought upon more equal terms, 
and lasted longer. In the first country, Saint Col- 
umba, and in the second, Saint Patrick are the 
personages who, at any rate according to tradition, 
beat down the druids and their gods. Adamnan, 
Abbot of lona, who wrote his Vita Columbtz in the 
last decade of the seventh century, describes how, 
a century earlier, that saint had carried the Gospel 
to the Picts. * Their king, Brude, received him con- 
temptuously, and the royal druids left no heathen 
spell unuttered to thwart and annoy him. But, as 
the power of Moses was greater than the power of 
the magicians of Egypt, so Saint Columba's prayers 
caused miracles more wonderful and more convinc- 
ing than any wrought by his adversaries. Such 
stories belong to the atmosphere of myth which has 
always enveloped heroic men; the essential fact is 
that the Picts abandoned the old religion for the 

A similar legend sums up the life-work of Saint 

1 Gildas. See Six Old English Chronicles Bohu's Libraries. 
( B 219 ) 20 

402 Mythology of the British Islands 

Patrick in Ireland. Before he came, Cromm 
Cruaich had received from time immemorial his 
yearly toll of human lives. But Saint Patrick faced 
the gruesome idol; as he raised his crozier, we are 
told, the demon fell shrieking from his image, which, 
deprived of its soul, bowed forward to the ground. 

It is far easier, however, to overthrow the more 
public manifestations of a creed than to destroy its 
inner vital force, Cromm Cruaich's idol might fall, 
but his spirit would survive a very Proteus. The 
sacred places of the ancient Celtic religion might be 
invaded, the idols and altars of the gods thrown 
down, the priests slain, scattered, or banished, and 
the cult officially declared to be extinct ; but, 
driven from the important centres, it would yet 
survive outside and around them. The more civil- 
ized Gaels and Britons would no doubt accept the 
purer gospel, and abandon the gods they had once 
adored, but the peasantry the bulk of the popula- 
tion would still cling to the familiar rites and 
names. A nobler belief and a higher civilization 
come, after all, only as surface waves upon the great 
ocean of human life; beneath their agitations lies a 
vast slumbering abyss of half-conscious faith and 
thought to which culture penetrates with difficulty 
and in which changes come very slowly. 

We have already shown how long and how faith- 
fully the Gaelic and Welsh peasants clung to their 
old gods, in spite of all the efforts of the clerics to 
explain them as ancient kings, to transform them 
into wonder-working saints, or to ban them as 
demons of hell. This conservative religious instinct 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 403 

of the agricultural populations is not confined to the 
inhabitants of the British Islands. The modern 
Greeks still believe in nereids, in lamias, in sirens, 
and in Charon, the dark ferryman of Hades. 1 The 
descendants of the Romans and Etruscans hold that 
the old Etruscan gods and the Roman deities of the 
woods and fields still live in the world as spirits. 2 
The high altars of the " Lord of the Mound" and 
his terrible kin were levelled, and their golden 
images and great temples left to moulder in abandon- 
ment; but the rude rustic shrine to the rude rustic 
god still received its offerings. It is this shifting 
of the care of the pagan cult from chief to peasant, 
from court to hovel, and, perhaps, to some extent 
from higher to lower race, that serves to explain 
how the more primitive and uncouth gods have 
tended so largely to supplant those of higher, more 
graceful mien. Aboriginal deities, thrust into 
obscurity by the invasion of higher foreign types, 
came back to their own again. 

For it seems plain that we must divide the 
spiritual population of the British Islands into two 
classes. There is little in common between the 
"fairy", strictly so-called, and the unsightly elf who 
appears under various names and guises, as pooka, 
leprechaun, brownie, knocker, or bogle. The one 
belongs to such divine tribes as the Tuatha D6 
Danann of Gaelic myth or their kin, the British 
gods of the Mabinogion. The other owes his origin 

1 Rennell Rodd : Customs and Lore of Modern Greece. Stuart Glennie : Greek 
Folk Songs. 
8 Charles Godfrey Leland : Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition. 

404 Mythology of the British Islands 

to a quite different, and much lower, kind of imagina- 
tion. One might fancy that neolithic man made him 
in his own image. 

None the less has immemorial tradition wonder- 
fully preserved the essential features of the Celtic 
nature-gods. The fairy belief of the present day 
hardly differs at all from the conception which the 
Celts had of their deities. The description of the 
Tuatha D6 Danann in the " Dialogue of the Elders" 
as " sprites or fairies with corporeal or material 
forms but indued with immortality " would stand as 
an account of prevailing ideas as to the " good 
people" to-day. Nor do the Irish and Welsh 
fairies of popular belief differ from one another. 
Both alike live among the hills, though in Wales 
a lake often takes the place of the " fairy mound"; 
both, though they war and marry among them- 
selves, are semi-immortal; both covet the children 
of men, and will steal them from the cradle, leaving 
one of their own uncanny brood in the mortal baby's 
stead; both can lay men and women under spells; 
both delight in music and the dance, and live lives 
of unreal and fantastic splendour and luxury. 
Another point in which they resemble one another 
is in their tiny size. But this would seem to be the 
result of the literary convention originated by Shake- 
speare ; in genuine folktales, both Gaelic and British, 
the fairies are pictured as of at least mortal stature. 1 

But, Aryan or Iberian, beautiful or hideous, they 

i Rhys : Celtic Folklore, p. 670 ; Curtin : Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost 
World \ and Mr. Leland Duncan's Fairy Beliefs from County Lei trim in Folklore, 
fune, 1896. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 405 

are fast vanishing from belief. Every year, the 
secluded valleys in which men and women might 
still live in the old way, and dream the old dreams, 
tend more and more to be thrown open to the 
modern world of rapid movement and rapid thought. 
The last ten years have perhaps done more in this 
direction than the preceding ten generations. What 
lone shepherd or fisherman will ever see again the 
vision of the great Mananndn? Have the stable- 
boys of to-day still any faith left in Finvarra? Is 
Gwyn ap Nudd often thought of in his own valleys 
of the Tawe and the Nedd? It would be hard, 
perhaps, to find a whole-hearted believer even in 
his local pooka or parish bogle. 

It is the ritual observances of the old Celtic faith 
which have better weathered, and will longer survive, 
the disintegrating influences of time. There are no 
hard names to be remembered. Things may still 
be done for " luck " which were once done for re- 
ligion. Customary observances die very slowly, 
held up by an only half acknowledged fear that, 
unless they are fulfilled, " something may happen". 
We shall get, therefore, more satisfactory evidence 
of the nature of the Celtic paganism by examining 
such customs than in any other way. 

We find three forms of the survival of the ancient 
religion into quite recent times. The first is the 
celebration of the old solar or agricultural festivals 
of the spring and autumn equinoxes and of the 
summer and winter solstices. The second is the 
practice of a symbolic human sacrifice by those who 
have forgotten its meaning, and only know that they 

4.06 Mythology of the British Islands 

are keeping up an old custom, joined with late in- 
stances of the actual sacrifices of animals to avert 
cattle-plagues or to change bad luck. The third 
consists of many still - living relics of the once 
universal worship of sacred waters, trees, stories, 
and animals. 

Whatever may have been the exact meaning of 
the Celtic state worship, there seems to be no doubt 
that it centred around the four great days in the 
year which chronicle the rise, progress, and decline 
of the sun, and, therefore, of the fruits of the earth. 
These were: Beltaine, which fell at the beginning 
of May; Midsummer Day, marking the triumph of 
sunshine and vegetation; the Feast of Lugh, when, 
in August, the turning-point of the sun's course had 
been reached; and the sad Samhain, when he bade 
farewell to power, and fell again for half a year 
under the sway of the evil forces of winter and 

Of these great solar periods, the first and the 
last were, naturally, the most important. The 
whole Celtic mythology seems to revolve upon 
them, as upon pivots, It was on the day of Beltaine 
that Partholon and his people, the discoverers, and, 
indeed, the makers of Ireland, arrived there from 
the other world, and it was on the same day, three 
hundred years later, that they returned whence they 
came. It was on Beltaine-day that the Gaelic gods, 
the Tuatha D6 Danann, and, after them, the Gaelic 
men, first set foot on Irish soil. It was on the day 
of Samhain that the Foniors oppressed the people 
of Nemed with their terrible tax; and it was again 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 407 

at Samhain that a later race of gods of light and 
life finally conquered those demons at the Battle 
of Moytura. Only one important mythological 
incident and that was one added at a later time! 
happened upon any other than one of those two 
days; it was upon Midsummer Day, one of the 
lesser solar points, that the people of the goddess 
Danu took Ireland from its inhabitants, the Fir 

The mythology of Britain preserves the same 
root-idea as that of Ireland. If anything uncanny 
took place, it was sure to be on May-day. It was 
on "the night of the first of May 11 that Rhiannon 
lost, and Teirnyon Twryf Vliant found, the infant 
Pryderi, as told in the first of the Mabinogion. 1 It 
was "on every May-eve " that the two dragons 
fought and shrieked in the reign of " King" Lludd. 2 
It is on "every first of May" till the day of doom 
that Gwyn son of Nudd, fights with Gwyrthur son 
of Greidawl, for Lludd's fair daughter, Creudylad. 8 
And it was when she was "a-maying" in the woods 
and fields near Westminster that the same Gwyn, 
or Melwas, under his romance-name of Sir Melia- 
graunce, captured Arthur's queen, Guinevere. 4 

The nature of the rites performed upon these 
days can be surmised from their pale survivals. 
They are still celebrated by the descendants of the 
Celts, though it is probable that few of them know 
or would even care to know why May Day, 
St. John's Day, Lammas, and Hallowe'en are times 

i The Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed. 2 The story of Lludd and LLevelys. 
1 Kulhwch and Olwen. 4 Morte Darthur, Book XIX, chaps. I and II. 

408 Mythology of the British Islands 

of ceremony. The first called " Beltaine " in Ire- 
land, "Bealtiunn" in Scotland, "Shenn da Boaldyn' 
in the Isle of Man, and " Galan-Mai " (the Calends 
of May) in Wales celebrates the waking of the 
earth from her winter sleep, and the renewal of 
warmth, life, and vegetation. This is the meaning 
of the May-pole, now rarely seen in our streets, 
though Shakespeare tells us that in his time the 
festival was so eagerly anticipated that no one could 
sleep upon its eve. 1 At midnight the people rose, 
and, going to the nearest woods, tore down branches 
of trees, with which the sun, when he rose, would 
find doors and windows decked for him. They 
spent the day in dancing round the May-pole, with 
rude, rustic mirth, man joining with nature to cele- 
brate the coming of summer. The opposite to it 
was the day called " Samhain " in Ireland and Scot- 
land, " Sauin " in Man, and " Nos Galan-gaeof " 
(the Night of the Winter Calends) in Wales. This 
festival was a sad one: summer was over, and 
winter, with its short, sunless days and long, dreary 
nights, was at hand. It was the beginning, too, of 
the ancient Celtic year, 2 and omens for the future 
might be extorted from dark powers by uncanny 
rites. It was the holiday of the dead and of all the 
more evil supernatural beings. " On November- 
eve ", says a North Cardiganshire proverb, "there 
is a bogy on every stile/' The Scotch have even 
invented a special bogy the Samhanach or goblin 
which comes out at Samhain. 8 

i Henry V/l 7, act v, scene 3. f Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 514. 

8 Ibid., p. 516. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 409 

The sun-god himself is said to have instituted the 
August festival called " Lugnassad " (Lugh's com- 
memoration) in Ireland, " Lla Lluanys" in Man, 
and "Gwyl Awst" (August Feast) in Wales; and 
it was once of hardly less importance than Beltaine 
or Samhain. It is noteworthy, too, that the first of 
August was a great day at Lyons formerly called 
Lugudunum, the dun (town) of Lugus. The mid- 
summer festival, on the other hand, has largely 
merged its mythological significance in the Christian 
Feast of St. John. 

The characteristic features of these festivals give 
certain proof of the original nature of the great 
pagan ceremonials of which they are the survivals 
and travesties. 1 In all of them, bonfires are lighted 
on the highest hills, and the hearth fires solemnly 
rekindled. They form the excuse for much sport 
and jollity. But there is yet something sinister in 
the air; the " fairies " are active and abroad, and 
one must be careful to omit no prescribed rite, if 
one would avoid kindling their anger or falling into 
their power. To some of these still-half-believed-in 
nature-gods offerings were made down to a com- 
paratively late period. When Pennant wrote, in 
the eighteenth century, it was the custom on Bel- 
taine-day in many Highland villages to offer libations 
and cakes not only to the " spirits 1 ' who were be- 
lieved to be beneficial to the flocks and herds, but 
also to creatures like the fox, the eagle, and the 

1 A good account of the Irish festivals is given by Lady Wilde in her Ancient 
Legends of 'Ireland \ pp. 193-221. 

4 to Mythology of the British Islands 

hoodie-crow which so often molested them. 1 At 
Hallowe'en (the Celtic Samhain) the natives of the 
Hebrides used to pour libations of ale to a marine 
god called Shony, imploring him to send sea-weed 
to the shore. 2 In honour, also, of such beings, 
curious rites were performed. Maidens washed 
their faces in morning dew, with prayers for beauty. 
They carried sprigs of the rowan, that mystic tree 
whose scarlet berries were the ambrosial food of the 
Tuatha De Danann. 

In their original form, these now harmless rural 
holidays were undoubtedly religious festivals of an 
orgiastic nature- worship such as became so popular 
in Greece in connection with the cult of Dionysus. 
The great " lords of life" and of the powers of nature 
that made and ruled life were propitiated by madden- 
ing invocations, by riotous dances, and by human 

The bonfires which fill so large a part in the 
modern festivals have been casually mentioned. 
Originally they were no mere feux de joie, but had 
a terrible meaning, which the customs connected 
with them preserve. At the Highland Beltaine, 
a cake was divided by lot, and whoever drew the 
" burnt piece " was obliged to leap three times over 
the flames. At the midsummer bonfires in Ireland 
all passed through the fire ; the men when the flames 
were highest, the women when they were lower, 
and the cattle when there was nothing left but 
smoke. In Wales, upon the last day of October, 

J Pennant : A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772. 
2 Martin: Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, 1695. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 41! 

the old Samhain, there was a slightly different, and 
still more suggestive rite. The hill-top bonfires were 
watched until they were announced to be extinct. 
Then all would race headlong down the hill, shouting 
a formula to the effect that the devil would get the 
hindmost. The devil of a new belief is the god of 
the one it has supplanted; in all three instances, the 
custom was no mere meaningless horse-play, but a 
symbolical human sacrifice. 

A similar observance, but of a more cruel kind, 
was kept up in France upon St. John's Day, until 
forbidden by law in the reign of Louis the Four- 
teenth. Baskets containing living wolves, foxes, 
and cats were burned upon the bonfires, under the 
auspices and in the presence of the sheriffs or the 
mayor of the town. 1 Caesar noted the custom 
among the druids of constructing huge wicker-work 
images, which they filled with living men, and set 
on fire, and it can hardly be doubted that the 
wretched wolves, foxes, and cats were ceremonial 
substitutes for human beings. 

An ingenious theory was invented, after the intro- 
duction of Christianity, with the purpose of allowing 
such ancient rites to continue, with a changed mean- 
ing. The passing of persons and cattle through 
flame or smoke was explained as a practice which 
interposed a magic protection between them and the 
powers of evil. This homoeopathic device of using 
the evil power's own sacred fire as a means of pro- 
tection against himself somewhat suggests that seeth- 
ing of the kid in its mother's milk whjch was repro- 

i Gaidoz : Esquisse de la Religion des Gautois, p. 21 

412 Mythology of the British Islands 

bated by the Levitical law; but, no doubt, pagan 
" demons " were considered fair game. The explana- 
tion, of course, is an obviously and clumsily forced 
one; it was the grim druidical philosophy that to 
quote Caesar " unless the life of man was repaid 
for the life of man, the will of the immortal gods 
could not be appeased" that dictated both the 
national and the private human sacrifices of the 
Celts, the shadows of which remain in the leaping 
through the bonfires, and in the numerous recorded 
sacrifices of cattle within quite recent times. 

Mr. Laurence Gomme, in his Ethnology in Folk- 
lore, has collected many modern instances of the 
sacrifices of cattle not only in Ireland and Scotland, 
but also in Wales, Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, 
Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. 1 " Within twenty miles 
of the metropolis of Scotland a relative of Professor 
Simpson offered up a live cow as a sacrifice to the 
spirit of the murrain." 2 In Wales, when cattle- 
sickness broke out, a bullock was immolated by 
being thrown down from the top of a high rock. 
Generally, however, the wretched victims were 
burned alive. In 1859 an Isle of Man farmer 
offered a heifer as a burnt offering near Tynwald 
Hill, to avert the anger of the ghostly occupant of 
a barrow which had been desecrated by opening. 
Sometimes, even, these burnt oblations were offered 
to an alleged Christian saint. The registers of the 
Presbytery of Dingwall for the years 1656 and 1678 
contain records of the sacrifices of cattle upon the 

1 Gomme: Ethnology in Folklore t pp, 136-139. 
* lbid. t p. 137. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 413 

site of an ancient temple in honour of a being whom 
some called " St. Mourie", and others, perhaps know- 
ing his doubtful character, "ane god Mourie". 1 At 
Kirkcudbright, it was St. Cuthbert, and at Clynnog, 
in Wales, it was St. Beuno, who was thought to 
delight in the blood of bulls. 2 

Such sacrifices of cattle appear mainly to have 
been offered to stay plague among cattle. Man for 
man and beast for beast, was, perhaps, the old rule. 
But among all nations, human sacrifices have been 
gradually commuted for those of animals. The 
family of the O'Herlebys in Bally vorney, County 
Cork, used in olden days to keep an idol, "an image 
of wood about two feet high, carved and painted like 
a woman". 3 She was the goddess of smallpox, and 
to her a sheep was immolated on behalf of anyone 
seized with that disease. 

The third form of Celtic pagan survival is found 
in numerous instances of the adoration of water, 
trees, stones, and animals. Like the other "Aryan" 
nations, the Celts worshipped their rivers. The 
Dee received divine honours as a war-goddess with 
the title of Aerfon, while the Ribble, under its name 
of Belisama, was identified by the Romans with 
Minerva. 4 Myths were told of them, as of the 
sacred streams of Greece. The Dee gave oracles 
as to the results of the perpetual wars between the 
Welsh and the English; as its stream encroached 

1 Mitchell : The Past in the Present, pp. 271, 275. 

2 Elton : Origins of English History, p. 284. 
8 Gomme : Ethnology in Folklore, p. 140. 

4 The word Dee probably meant ' ' divinity". The river was also called Dyfridwy, 
i.e. " water of the divinity ". See Rhys: Lectures on Wthk Philology, p. 307 % 

414 Mythology of the British Islands 

either upon the Welsh or the English side, so one 
nation or the other would be victorious. 1 The 
Tweed, like many of the Greek rivers, was credited 
with human descendants. 2 That the rivers of Great 
Britain received human sacrifices is clear from the 
folklore concerning many of them. Deprived of 
their expected offerings, they are believed to snatch 
by stealth the human lives for which they crave. 
" River of Dart, River of Dart, every year thou 
claimest a heart/' runs the Devonshire folk-song. 
The Spey, too, requires a life yearly, 8 but the Spirit 
of the Ribble is satisfied with one victim at the end 
of every seven years. 4 

Evidence, however, of the worship of rivers is 
scanty compared with that of the adoration of wells. 
" In the case of well- worship/' says Mr. Gomme, " it 
may be asserted with some confidence that it prevails 
in every county of the three kingdoms/' 6 He finds 
it most vital in the Gaelic counties, somewhat less 
so in the British, and almost entirely wanting in the 
Teutonic south-east. So numerous, indeed, are "holy 
wells" that several monographs have been written 
solely upon them. 6 In some cases these wells were 
resorted to for the cure of diseases; in others, to 
obtain change of weather, or "good luck". Offer- 
ings were made to them, to propitiate their guardian 
gods or nymphs. Pennant tells us that in olden 

* Rhys : Celtic Britain, p. 68. 

2 Rogers: Social Life in Scotland, chap, ill, p. 336. 

8 Folklore, chap, in, p. 72. 

4 Henderson: Folklore of Northern Cou?jties t p. 265. 

5 Gomme: Ethnology in Folklore, p. 78. 

6 Hope: Holy Well* of England \ Harvey: Holy Wells of Ireland, 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 415 

times the rich would sacrifice one of their horses at 
a well near Abergeleu, to secure a blessing upon the 
rest. 1 Fowls were offered at St Tegla's Well, near 
Wrexham, by epileptic patients. 2 But of late years 
the well-spirits have had to be content with much 
smaller tributes such trifles as pins, rags, coloured 
pebbles, and small coins. 

With sacred wells were often connected sacred 
trees, to whose branches rags and small pieces of 
garments were suspended by their humble votaries. 
Sometimes, where the ground near the well was 
bare of vegetation, bushes were artificially placed 
beside the water. The same people who venerated 
wells and trees would pay equal adoration to sacred 
stones. Lord Roden, describing, in 1851, the Island 
of Inniskea, off the coast of Mayo, asserts that a 
sacred well called " Derrivla" and a sacred stone 
called " Neevougi", which was kept carefully wrapped 
up in flannel and brought out at certain periods to 
be publicly adored, seemed to be the only deities 
known to that lone Atlantic island's three hundred 
inhabitants. 8 It sounds incredible; but there is 
ample evidence of the worship of fetish stones by 
quite modern inhabitants of our islands. The Clan 
Chattan kept such a stone in the Isle of Arran; it 
was believed, like the stone of Inniskea, to be able 
to cure diseases, and was kept carefully ''wrapped 
up in fair linen cloth, and about that there was a 
piece of woollen cloth". 4 Similarly, too, the worship 

i Sikes: British Goblins, p. 351. * Ibid., p. 329. 

8 Roden: Progress of the Reformation in Ireland, pp, 51-54. 
4 Martin: Description of the Western Islands, pp. 166-22$, 

4 1 6 Mythology of the British Islands 

of wells was connected with the worship of animals. 
At a well in the " Devil's Causeway", between Ruck- 
ley and Acton, in Shropshire, lived, and perhaps 
still live, four frogs who were, and perhaps still are, 
believed to be "the devil and his imps" that is to 
say, gods or demons of a proscribed idolatry. 1 In 
Ireland such guardian spirits are usually fish trout, 
eels, or salmon thought to be endowed with eternal 
life. 2 The genius of a well in Banffshire took the 
form of a fly, which was also said to be undying, 
but to transmigrate from body to body. Its function 
was to deliver oracles ; according as it seemed active 
or lethargic, its votaries drew their omens. 8 It is 
needless to multiply instances of a still surviving 
cult of water, trees, stones, and animals. Enough 
to say that it would be easy. What concerns us is 
that we are face to face in Britain with living forms 
of the oldest, lowest, most primitive religion in the 
world one which would seem to have been once 
universal, and which, crouching close to the earth, 
lets other creeds blow over it without effacing it, 
and outlives one and all of them. 

It underlies the three great world-religions, and 
still forms the real belief of perhaps the majority 
of their titular adherents. It is characteristic of the 
wisdom of the Christian Church that, knowing its 
power, she sought rather to sanctify than to extir- 
pate it. What once were the Celtic equivalents of 
the Greek " fountains of the nymphs " were conse- 
crated as " holy wells ". The process of so adopting 

i Burne : Shropshire Folklore, p. 416. 

s Gomme : Ethnology in Folklore, pp. 92-93. * Ibid. , p. 102. 

Survivals of Celtic Paganism 417 

them began early. St. Columba, when he went in 
the sixth century to convert the Picts, found a 
spring which they worshipped as a god; he blessed 
it, and "from that day the demon separated from 
the water". 1 Indeed, he so sanctified no less than 
three hundred such springs. 2 Sacred stones were 
equally taken under the aegis of Christianity. Some 
were placed on the altars of cathedrals, others built 
into consecrated walls. The animal gods either 
found themselves the heroes of Christian legends, 
or where, for some reason, such adoption was hope 
less, were proclaimed " witches' animals ", and dealt 
with accordingly. Such happened to the hare, a 
creature sacred to the ancient Britons, 8 but now in 
bad odour among the superstitious. The wren, too, 
is hunted to death upon St. Stephen's Day in Ire- 
land. Its crime is said to be that it has "a drop of 
the de'il's blood in it ", but the real reason is pro- 
bably to be found in the fact that the Irish druids 
used to draw auguries from its chirpings. 

We have made in this volume some attempt to 
draw a picture of the ancient religion of our earliest 
ancestors, the Gaelic and the British Celts. We 
have shown what can be gathered of the broken 
remnants of a mythology as splendid in conception 
and as brilliant in colour as that of the Greeks. 
We have tried to paint its divine figures, and to 
retell their heroic stories. We have seen them 

1 Adamnan's Vita Columba. 

3 Dr. Whitley Stokes : Three Middle Irish Homilies. 
8 Caesar: De Bello Gallico, Book V, chap. xn. 

4i 8 Mythology of the British Islands 

fall from their shrines, and yet, rising again, take on 
new lives as kings, or saints, or knights of romance, 
and we have caught fading glimpses of them sur- 
viving to-day as the "fairies", their rites still 
cherished by worshippers who hardly know who 
or why they worship. Of necessity this survey 
has been brief and incomplete. Whether the great 
edifice of the Celtic mythology will ever be wholly 
restored one can at present only speculate. Its 
colossal fragments are perhaps too deeply buried 
and too widely scattered. But, even as it stands 
ruined, it is a mighty quarry from which poets yet 
unborn will hew spiritual marble for houses not 
made with hands. 



The object of this short list is merely to supplement the mar- 
ginal notes by pointing out to a reader desirous of going deeper 
into the subject the most recent and accessible works upon it. 
That they should be accessible is, in its intention, the most im- 
portant thing; and therefore only books easily and cheaply obtain- 
able will be mentioned. 


Edition. London, 1891. 

Ernest Renan. THE POETRY OF THE CELTIC RACES (and other 
studies). Translated by William G. Hutchinson. London, 

Two eloquent appreciations of Celtic literature. 
Magnus Maclean, M.A., D.C.L. THE LITERATURE OF THE 
CELTS. Its History and Romance. London, 1902. 
A handy exposition of all the branches of Celtic literature. 

Elizabeth A. Sharp (editor). LYRA CELTICA. An Anthology 
of Representative Celtic Poetry. Ancient Irish, Alban, 
Gaelic, Breton, Cymric, and Modern Scottish and Irish 
Celtic Poetry. With introduction and notes by William 
Sharp. Edinburgh, 1896. 

Nutt's " Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folk- 
lore". London, 1899. 

A pamphlet briefly tracing the indebtedness of medieval 
European literature to pre-mediaval Celtic sources. 


420 Mythology of the British Islands 


H. d'Arbois de Jubainville. LA CIVILISATION DES CELTES ET 

VoL VI of the authors monumental " Cours de Litterature 
celtique ." 

treating of the Government, Military System, and Law; 
Religion, Learning, and Art; Trades, Industries, and Com- 
merce; Manners, Customs, and Domestic Life of the Ancient 
Irish People. 2 vols. London, 1903. 


Second edition, revised. London, 1890. 
John Rhys. CELTIC BRITAIN. " Early Britain" Series. London, 

H. d'Arbois de Jubainville. INTRODUCTION A L'^TUDE DE LA 

LITTERATURE CELTIQUE. Vol. I of the " Cours de Litterature 

celtique". Paris, 1883. 

Contains, amo?ig other information, the fullest and most 

authentic account of the druids and druidism. 


H. d'Arbois de Jubainville. LE CYCLE MYTHOLOGIQUE IRLAN- 
de Literature celtique". Paris, 1884. Translated into Eng- 
lish as 

With notes by R. I. Best. Dublin, 1903. 

An account of Irish mythical history and of some of the 
greater Gaelic gods. With chapters on some of the more 
striking phases of Celtic belief. 

Irish Historic Legend of the eighth century. Edited by 
Kuno Meyer. With essays upon the Happy Otherworld in 
Irish Myth and upon the Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth. Vol. 
I The Happy Otherworld. VoL II The Celtic Doctrine 
of Rebirth. Grimm Library, Vols. IV and VI. London, 

Appendix 421 

Contains^ among other notable contributions to the study of 
Celtic mythology, an enquiry into the nature of the Tuatha De 
Danann, a subject briefly treated in the same author's 
lar Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore ". London, 

Patrick Weston Joyce. OLD CELTIC ROMANCES. Translated 
from the Gaelic. London, 1894. 

A retelling in popular modern style of some of the more im- 
portant mythological and Fenian stories. 

Lady Gregory. GODS AND FIGHTING MEN. The story of the 
Tuatha De Danaan and of the Fianna of Erin. Arranged 
and put into English by Lady Gregory. With a Preface by 
W. B. Yeats. London, 1904. 

Covers much the same ground as Mr. Joyce's book, but in 
more literary manner. 

of "Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folk- 
lore". London, 1899. 

A short survey of the literature connected with the Fenians. 

John Gregorson Campbell, Minister of Tiree. THE FIANS. 
Stories, poems, and traditions of Fionn and his Warrior 
Band, collected entirely from oral sources. With introduc- 
tion and bibliographical notes by Alfred Nutt. Vol. IV of 
"Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition". London, 1891. 
An account of the Fenians from the Scottish-Gaelic side. 

" Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore". 
London, 1900. 

A brief but excellent introduction to the Cuchulainn cycle. 

Lady Gregory. CUCHULAIN OF MUIRTHEMNE. The story of 
the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster. Arranged and put 
into English by Lady Gregory. With a Preface by W. B. 
Yeats. London, 1902. 

A retelling in poetic prose of the tales connected with Cuchu- 

Being a collection of stories relating to the Hero Cuchullin, 
translated from the Irish by various scholars. Compiled and 

422 Mythology of the British Islands 

edited with introduction and notes by Eleanor Hull. With 
Map of Ancient Ireland. Grimm Library, Vol. VIIL 
London, 1898. 

A series of Cuchulainn stories from the ancient Irish manu- 
scripts. More literal than Lady Gregory's adaptation. 

H. d'Arbois de Jubainville. L'liPOPiiE CELTIQUE EN IRLANDE. 

Vol. V of the "Cours de Litterature celtique". Paris, 1892. 

A collection, translated into French, of some of the principal 

stories of the Cuchulainn cycle, with various appendices upon 

Gaelic mythological subjects. 

(Tain Bo Cuailgne). An old Irish prose-epic translated for 
the first time from the Leabhar na h-Uidhri and the Yellow 
Book of Lecan. Grimm Library, Vol. XVI. London, 

A strictly literal rendering of the central episode of the 
Cuchulainn cycle. 


Ivor B. John. THE MABINOGION. No. n of "Popular Studies 
in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore". London, 1901. 

A pamphlet introduction to the Mabinogion literature. 
Lady Charlotte Guest. THE MABINOGION. From the Welsh of 
the LLYFR COCH o HERGEST (the Red Book of Hergest) 
in the library of Jesus College, Oxford. Translated, with 
notes, by Lady Charlotte Guest. 

First edition. Text, translation, and notes, 3 vols., 1849. 
Translation and notes only, i voL, 1877. 
The Boys' Mabinogion, 1881. 

Cheap editions of this classic have been lately issued. One 
may obtain it in Mr. Nutfs handsome little volume; as one of 
Dent's " Temple Classics"; or in the " Welsh Library". 

J. Loth. LES MABINOGION, traduits en entier pour la premiere 
fois en frangais avec un commentaire explicatif et des notes 
critiques. 2 vols. Vols. Ill and IV of De Jubainville's 
"Cours de Literature celtique". Paris, 1889. 

A more exact translation than that of Lady Guest, with 
notes embodying more recent scholarship. 

Appendix 423 

J, A. Giles, D.C.I.. OLD ENGLISH CHRONICLES, including . . . 
Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History, Gildas, Nennius 
. . . Edited, with illustrative notes, by J. A. Giles, D.C.L. 
"Bohn's Antiquarian Library". London, 1901. 
The most accessible edition of Geoffrey of Monmouth. 

Sir Thomas Malory. THE MORTE DARTHUR. Edited by Dr. 
H. Oskar Sommer. Vol. I the Text. Vol. II Glossary, 
Index, &c. Vol. Ill Study on the Sources. London, 

Vol. I of thiS) the best text of the Morte Darthur^ can be 
obtained separately. 

Jessie L. Weston. KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS. A sur- 
vey of Arthurian romance. No. 4 of "Popular Studies in 
Mythology, Romance, and Folklore". London, 1899. 

Alfred Nutt. THE LEGENDS OF THE HOLY GRAIL. No. 14 of 
"Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore" 
London, 1902. 

Useful introductions to a more special study of Arthurian 



Hibbert Lectures for 1886." London, 1898. 

These two volumes are the most important attempts yet made 
towards a scientific and comprehensive study of the Celtic 




This book is one of the earliest, and, if not the most scientific 
perhaps the most attractive of the many collections of Irish 
fairy-lore. Later compilations are Mr. William Larminifs 

424 Mythology of the British Islands 

" West Irish Folktales and Romances ", and Mr. Jeremiah 
Curtiris "Hero Tales of Ireland", "Myths and Folklore of 
Ireland", and " Tales of the Fairies^ collected in South Mun- 
ster ". On the Scotch side> notice should be particularly taken 
of Campbelfs "Popular Tales of the West Highlands" and 
the volumes entitled " Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition ". 
All these books are either recent or recently republished, and are 
merely selected out of a large list of ivorks^ valuable and other- 
wise> upon this lighter side of Celtic mythology. 


Oxford, 1901. 

Wirt Sikes. BRITISH GOBLINS: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mytho- 
logy, Legends, and Traditions. By Wirt Sikes, United States 
Consul for Wales. London, 1880. 


George Laurence Gomme. ETHNOLOGY IN FOLKLORE. 
"Modern Science" Series. London, 1892. 

An attempt to assign apparently non- Aryan beliefs and cm 
+oms in the British islands to pre- Aryan inhabitants. 


Aberffraw, marriage of Bran wen at, 289. 

Abergeleu, sacred well at, 415. 

Achill Island, folk-tales preserved at, 


Achilles, the Irish, 158. 
Achren, battle of, 305, 306; castle of, 


Acrisius, 236. 
Adamnan's Life of Saint Columba, 401, 

Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, n, 


Aebh, wife of Le"r, 142. 
Aed, son of LeY, 143. 
Aedh, son of Miodhchaoin, 105. 
Aeife, wife of Lr, 142, 143, 144. 
Aerfon, a title of the river Dee, 413. 
ss Sidhe, the " folk of the mounds", 

the gods or fairies, 137, 168. 
Africa, 19, 120, 274, 324. 
Aganippus, king of the Franks, 382, 383. 
Agriculture god of, British, 261 ; a 

Gaulish, 274. 
Ailbhe, foster -daughter of Bodb the 

Red, 142. 

Aileach, grave of Nuada at, 122, 157. 
Ailill, king of Connaught, 147, 154, 164, 

165, 175* 179. 200. 
\ilinn, love-story of, 188, 189. 
Ailioll of Arran, 142. 
Aine", queen of the fairies of South Mun- 

ster, 244-246. 
Ainle, one of the sons of Usnach, 192, 

193, 196. 

Airceltrai, the sidh of Ogma, 136, 157. 
Airem, Eochaid, high king of Ireland, 

147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 331, 332. 
Airem, meaning of the word, 149, 333. 
Airmid, daughter of Diancecht, 80, 81, 

82, no. 
Alator, a war-god worshipped in Britain, 


Alaw, river in Anglesey, 294, 295. 
Alba, 97, 104, 163, 178, 192, 193, 196, 

382 ; Deirdre's farewell to, 194-195. 
Albania, a name for Alba, 382. 
Ale of Goibniu, 61. 
Allobroges, 384, 385. 
Amaethon, son of D6n, British god of 

Agriculture, 261, 305, 308, 313, 316, 

345 1 fights against Bran in the battle 

of Achren, 305-308 ; assists Kulhwch 

to win Olwen, 345. 
Amergin, druid of the Milesians, 123- 


Amesbury, "castle" of, 29. 
Amlwch, stream of, 295. 
Ana, see Anu. 

Ancient Britons, who were the, 18-23. 
Aneurin, a sixth-century British bard, 

n, 295, 372. 

Aneurin, the Book of, n. 
Anglesey, island of, 289, 294, 322, 388, 

Anglo-Saxon, our descent not entirely, 

Anguish, Anguissance, king of Ireland, 


Angus, Gaelic god of love and beauty, 
56, 79, 80, 117, 136, 139-142, 147, 
156, 157* 205, 211-214, 217, 218, 221, 
240 ; his attributes, 56 ; his wooing of 
Caer, 140-142; cheats his father, the 
Dagda, 139 ; steals Etain from Mider, 
147; helps Diarmait and Grainne, 217, 
218, 221 ; matches his pigs against the 
Fenians, 213-214. 

Anicetus, Sol Apollo, a Romano- Britisn 
god, 275. 

Animals, sacred, 406, 416, 417 ; sacrifices 
of, 406, 411, 412, 413. 

Anna, sister of Arthur, 323. 

Annals of the Four Masters , 204. 

Annwn, the British Otherworld, 254. 


426 Mythology of the British Islands 

273, 278-282, 303, 308, 309, 318, 319, 

321, 390. 39 1 - 
Annwn, the Spoiling of t a poem by 

Taliesin, 305, 306, 317, 366. 
Arm, or Ana, a Gaelic goddess of 

prosperity and abundance, 50; the 

"Paps of Ana", 50; still living in 

folklore as Aynia and Aine", 245. 
Aoibhinn, queen of the fairies of North 

Munster, 244. 
Aoife, an Amazon defeated by Cuchu- 

lainn, 164, 176, 177. 
AphroditcS the British, 271, 388. 
Apollo, the Gaelic, 62 ; the British, 262 ; 

a temple of, in Britain, 42, 325. 
Apples, of the Garden of the Hesperides, 

98, 99, 102 ; in the Celtic Elysium, 

98, 136. 

Apple-tree of Ailenn, 189. 
Aquitani, 22. 
Aranon, son of Mile*, 123. 
Arawn, king of Annvvn, 279, 280, 281, 

306, 308, 309, 312, 315, 329, 357, 375. 
Ardan, a son of Usnach, 192, 193, 196. 
Ard Chein, 93. 
Arddu, Black Stone of, 305. 
Ars, 52. 

Argetldm, 49, 78. 
Arianrod, a British goddess, 261-265, 

3 r 3 3*7 3 2 2, 364, 371; her place in 

later legend taken by Arthur's sister, 

3 6 4- 

Armagh, 136, 158. 

Arnold, Matthew, 3, 16, 356. 

Arran, Isle of, 60, 142, 415. 

Art, the " Lonely", king of Tara, 189, 

Artaius, Mercurius, a Gaulish god, 274. 

Arthur, 6, 8, 14, 155, 202, 222, 246, 258, 
259, 271, 273, 274, 276, 296, 304, 306, 
311, 312-320, 322, 323, 326, 327, 328, 
3 2 9, 330-343. 348, 349. 3S l ~3fc>> 302, 
364-366, 368, 371, 374-376, 392, 407; 
the mythical and the historical, 313, 
314; assumes the attributes of Gwyd- 
ion, 316; the Spoiling of Annvvn by, 
319-322 ; becomes head of the British 
Pantheon, 312-313; wins Olwen for 
Kulhwch, 343-353; in Geoffrey of 
Monmouth's History \ 374, 375 ; leads 
the Wild Hunt, 392. 

Arthurian Legend \ Studies in the, Pro- 

fessor Rhys' s, 148, 158, 255, 257, 258; 
269, 272, 274, 278, 285, 313, 314, 316, 
321, 322, 323, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 
33L 332, 333. 358, 359 3$o. 364. 3^7, 
3 6 8, 3 6 9. 370. 383. 387. 389- 

Artur, son of Nemed, 274. 

Aryans, 21, 31, 32, 247; common tra- 
ditions of the, 32, 176, 189; Aryan 
languages, 21. 

Astarte, worshipped at Corbridge, 275. 

Astolat, 362. 

Athens, 153. 

Athlone, 175, 216. 

Augusel,-a king of Scotland, 375. 

Aurelius, a British king, 325. 

Avallach, see Avallon. 

Avallon, a British god of the Under- 
world, 329, 359 ; Isle of, 374, and see 

Avebury, the "castle" of, 29. 

Avilion, 133, 315, 329, 332, 334, 335, 

390. 394- 
Aynia, a fairy queen of Ulster, 245. 

Babylon, 178. 

Badb, a Gaelic war-goddess, 52, 53, 72, 
117, 119, 245; the name often used 
generically, 53 ; description of a, 53. 

" Badger in the bag", the game of, 285, 


Radon, battle of, 338. 
Baile, love-story of, 188-189. 
Baile's Strand, 186, 188. 
Rajocassus, Temple of the sun -god 

Bel in us at, 276, 
Bala lake, 265. 
Balan, 276, 357, 364. 
Balder, 33. 

Balgatan, a mountain near Cong, 73. 
Balin, 276, 357, 358, 364. 
Ballymagauran, village of, 38. 
Ballymote, Book of, 10, 38, 123, 138, 

229, 231. 
Ballysadare, 75. 
Balor, a king of the Fomors, 48-49, 50, 

79, 83, 84, 90, 112, 113, I2O, 233-239, 

269, 324, 341, 345, 371 ; his evil eye, 
49; kills Nuada and Macha, 112; is 
blinded by Lugh, 112; tales of, in 
modern folklore, 233-239. 

"Balor's Hill", 69, oo. 

Ban, king of Benwyk, 356, 360, 362. 



Banba, a goddess representing Ireland, 
125 ; an ancient name of Ireland, 126, 


Banshee, meaning of the word, 137. 

Baoisgne, Clann, 209, 217. 

Bards, 32, 42. 

Bardsey Island, 326. 

Barrow, river, how it got its name, 62. 

Barrule, South, 242. 

Barry, the, 246. 

Basque race, 19. 

Bath, 228, 275, 276, 338, 381. 

Bathurst's Roman Antiquities in Lyd- 
ney Park, 254. 

Battle of Achren, 305 ; of Badon, 338 ; 
of Camlan, 222, 315, 334, 337, 375, 
376 ; of Clontarf, 53 ; of Gabhra, 222, 
223, 225, 315; of Mag Rath, 52; of 
Moytura Northern, 107-117, 407; of 
Moytura Southern, 72 ~ 75 ; of the 
Trees, 123, 305-308. 

Bayeux, temple of Belinus at, 276. 

Bean, curious passage relating to the, 
306, 307. 

Becuma of the Fair Skin, 202. 

Bedivere, Sir, 6. 

Bedwini, Arthur's bishop, 337. 

Bedwyr, a follower of Arthur, 343, 344, 

Belacatudor, a war-god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 
Belgie, 23, 76. 
Beli, a British god, 120, 252, 260, 268, 

2 95. 3*3. 335. 37 6 - 
Belinus, a Celtic sun-god, 276, 358, 364; 

as a king of Britain, 276, 384, 385. 
Belisama, the Latin name of the Ribble, 

Beltaine, the Gaelic May-day, 41, 65, 

287, 406, 408, 409, 410. 
Berber race, 19. 
Beth, an Iberian god, 64. 
Bettws-y-coed, 7. 
Beuno, Saint, sacrifices of cattle to, 

Big- Knife, Osla, 352, 353. 

Bile", father of the Gaelic gods and men, 

51, 65, I2O, 121, 122, 252. 

Billingsgate, origin of name, 385. 
Birds, of Rhiannon, the, 273, 294, 296 ; 

Dechtire* and her maidens changed 

into, 160. 

Black Book of Caermarthen, the, n, 

255* 3"> 312. 335- 

Bladud, mythical founder of Bath, 381. 

Blathnat, daughter of Mider, 55, 179. 

Bliant, Castle, 358. 

Blodeuwedd, wife of Lieu Llaw Gyffes 
265, 266, 268. 

Blood-fines among the Celts, 30; blood- 
fine paid for Cian, 94-97. 

Bodnn, wife of the Dagda, 55, 139, 141. 

Boar, wild, of Bengulben, 221 ; the Boai 
Trwyth, 347-353- 

Bodb the Red, son of the Dagda, 60, 
133, 140, 141-145' J 57 20 5> 2o8 i is 
made king of the Tuatha De* Danann, 
140 ; his swineherd, 164 ; marries nis 
daughter Sadb to Finn, 208. 

Bogles, 393, 403, 405. 

Bonfires in Celtic ritual, 409-412. 

Bordeaux, Sir Huon of, 7. 

Boreada, 42. 

Borrach, 193, 195, 200. 

Bors, king of Gaul, 360. 

Bors, Sir, 368, 369. 

Boyne, river, 55, 56, 129, 136, 137, 15^, 
210, 213, 230. 

Brahmans, 32. 

Bran, son of Febal, an Irish king, 134, 

*35. 22 4- 

Bran, Finn's favourite hound, 213. 

Bran, British god of the Underload, 
258, 271-272, 276, 289-294, 296, 306, 
308, 313, 328, 329, 331, 338, 356, 357, 
360, 364, 366, 384, 386, 387, 389, 394 ; 
fights the battle of Achren, 306; be- 
comes the "Wonderful Head", 296; 
in Geoffrey of M on mouth's History, 
384, 385 ; in the Morte Darthur, 356, 
357; introduces Christianity into Bri- 
tain, 386. 

Brandegore, King, 272, 356. 

Brandegoris, King, 356. 

Brandel, Brandiles, Sir, 356. 

Branwen, British goddess of love, 271, 
289-294, 387. 

Brazil, 133. 

Brea, ford of, Finn killed at the, 222. 

Breasal's Island, 133. 

Brcilien, Forest of, 361. 

Bregon, 121. 

Brennius, a mythical British king, 5, 276, 
384. 38S- 

428 Mythology of the British Islands 

Brennus, 385. 

Bress, son of Elathan, a Fomor, 50, 78- 
80, 82, 83, 90, 108-111, 115-116, 269; 
his beauty, 50 ; marries Brigit, and is 
made king over the Tuatha D6 Dan- 
ann, 78; is forced to abdicate, 83; 
makes war on the Tuatha De* Danaan, 
83 ; is defeated and captured, 115-116. 

Brian, son of Tuirenn, 90, 91, 92, 94, 
99-102, 103, 105, 106. 

Briareus, 326. 

41 Bridge of the Cliff ", the, 163. 

Bridget, Saint, 7, 56, 228. 

Brigantes, a North British tribe, 277. 

Brigantia, a British Minerva, 277. 

Brigindo, a Gaulish goddess, 277. 

Brigit, Gaelic goddess of fire, poetry, 
and the hearth, 56, 78, 109, no, 228, 
269, 277, 387 ; is married to Bress, 78 ; 
is canonized as Saint Bridget, 228, 

Bri Leith, the sidh of Mider, 136, 148, 

152, 332- 

Brindled ox, the, 320. 
Britain, ancient names of, 292, 323. 
British Goblins, Mr. Wirt Sikes', 389, 

393. 415. 

Britons, ancient, who were the, 18-23. 

Britonum, Historia. See Historia, 
Geoffrey, Nennius. 

Brittany, 24. 

Briun, son of Bethar, 113. 

Brownies, 248, 393 403. 

Brude, king of the Picts, 401. 

Brugh-na-boyne, 136, 139, 160, 213, 214. 

Brutus, 121, 374. 

Brythons, 21, 22, 23, 24, 35. 

Buarainech, father of Balor, 48. 

Buinne, the Ruthless Red, son of Fergus, 
193, 196, 197. 

Bull, the Brown, of Cualgne, 164, 165, 
168, 175 ; the White-horned, of Con- 
naught, 165, 175. 

Bwbachod, 393. 

Cadbury, the supposed site of Camelot, 


Cader Idris, 305. 
Caemhoc, Saint, 146. 
Caer, daughter of Etal Ambuel, 141. 
Caer Arianrod, 252, 264. 
Caer Badus, 381. 

Caer Bannawg, 367. 

Caer Colvin, 275. 

Caer Dathyl, 308, 310. 

Caer Golud, 320. 

Caer Llyr, 270. 

Caer London, 376. 

Caer Myrddin, 324. 

Caer Ochren, 320. 

Caer Pedryvan, 319, 356, 367. 

Caer Rigor, 319. 

Caer Sarrlog, 386. 

Caer Sidi, 319, 321, 322, 368. 

Caer Vandwy, 257, 320. 

Caer Vedwyd, 319. 

Caer Wydyr, 320. 

Caesar, Julius, 5, 8, 18, 22, 23, 25, 27, 

3 35. 38, 119. 2 4 376, 399 4*2, 417. 
Cairbre", son of Cormac, 206, 222, 315. 
Cairn of Octriallach, no. 
Cairpre', son of Ognia, bard of the 

Tuatha D< Danann, 58, 82, 83, 87, 


Calais, 383. 
Calatin the wizard, 171, 172; daughters 

of Calatin, 178-181. 
Caledonians, 22. 
Camelot, 314, 335. 
Camlan, battle of, 222, 315, 334, 337, 

375. 376. 
Camulodunum, the Roman name of 

Colchester, 276. 
Camulus, a Gaulish god of war and the 

sky, 51, 204, 275, 323. 
Caoilte, a Fenian hero, 63, 146, 208, 

212, 217, 222, 227, 246. 
Caractacus, Caratacus, 271, 386, 387. 
Caradawc of the Strong Arms, son of 

Bran, 271, 291, 295, 338, 386, 389. 
Carbonek, 357, 367. 
Carmarthen, 324. 
Carnac, 114. 
Carnarvon, 310. 
Carrowmore, 114. 
Cassibellawn, Cassivelaunus, 376. 
"Cassiopeia's Chair", 252. 
Castell y Moch, 310. 
Castle of Arianrod, 252, 264. 
Castle Bliant, 358. 
Castle of Gwydion, 253. 
Castle Racket, 244. 
Castle of Revelry, 366, 367. 
Castle of Riches, 367. 



"Castles", Celtic, 29, 

Caswallawn, son of Beli, 295. 

Cath Godcu. See the " Battle of the 

Cathbad, druid of Emain Macha, 161, 
162, 174, 178, 181, 190, 198, 200. 

Cathubodva, a Gaulish war-goddess, 

Cauldrons in Celtic mythology ; the 
Dagda's, 54, 71, 366 ; of Ogyrvran 
the Giant, 366 ; of Diwrnach the Gael, 
346, 349; cauldron given by Bran 
to Matholwch, 290, 293, 366 ; caul- 
dron stolen from Mider by Cuchu- 
lainn, 176, 366; cauldron kept in 
Annwn by the chief of Hades, 273, 
319, 366 ; the legend of the Holy 
Grail founded upon Celtic myths of 
a cauldron of fertility and inspiration, 

Celtae, 22. 

Celtic mythical literature the forerunner 
of mediaeval romance, 184. 

Celtic strain in modern Englishmen, 3. 

Celts the, 19, 20, 21, 25-44, 70, 119, 
121, 124, 136, 138, 261, 262, 278, 283, 
329, 404, 407, 412. 

Cemmes, a parish in Pembrokeshire, 394. 

Cenn Cruaich, 41. 

Cermait % i.e. "Honey-mouth", a title 
of Ogma, 57. 

Ceth<S son of Diancecht, 62, 90. 

CethJenn, wife of Balor, 90. 

"Chain, Lugh's", 62; "chief's", 93. 

Champion of the Tuatha D Danann, 
59, 276; Champions of the Red 
Branch, see Red Branch; "The 
Champion's Prophecy", 201. 

Chariots, war, of the Celts, 25, 27, 28. 

Charon, 403. 

Chaucer, 2, 12. 

Chess, Mider's game with Eochaid 
Airem, 149; Ossian's game with Finn, 

Children of D6n, Nudd, and Llyr, 252. 

Christianity, introduced into Britain by 
Bran, 386, 387; conquers Druidism, 
400, 401 ; adopts harmless heathen 
cults, 416, 417. 

Cian, son of Diancecht, 62, 63, 78, 84, 
90-94, 106, 235-237, 239, 269, 345, 

Ciaran, Saint, 10. 

Cichol the Footless, a Fomor, 66. 

Cilgwri, the Ousel of, 349. 

Clann Baoisgne, 209, 217, 222. 

Clan Chattan, 415. 

Clann Morna, 209, 211, 218, 232. 

Clann Neamhuinn, 216, 218. 

Clann Ronan, 218. 

Clas Myrddin, an old name for Britain, 


Claudius, Roman emperor, 387. 
Cliodna, fairy queen of Munster, 244. 
Clontarf, battle of, 53. 
Clud, goddess of the river Clyde, 284, 


Cluricanes, 248. 
Cnoc Miodhchaoin, 97. 
Cnucha, battle of, 209. 
Coblynau, 393. 
Cocidius, a war-god worshipped by a 

Dacian colony in Cumberland, 275. 
Coed Helen, 310. 
Coel, a mythical king of Britain, 275, 

Coir Anmann, the ' ' Choice of Names", 

an old Irish tract, 50, 54, 61, 245, 270. 
Colchester, 276. 
"Cole, Old King", 276. 
Collen, Saint, 389, 390, 391. 
Columba, Saint, 12, 240, 401, 417. 
Comes Britannia, 313. 
Comes Littoris Saxonici, 314. 
Comyn, Michael, a Gaelic poet, 223. 
Conaire* the Great, high king of Ire 

land, 152, 157. 
Conall the Victorious, 163, 177, 183, 

192, 193, 197, 198. 
Conan, a Fenian hero, 209, 218. 
Conann, son of Febar, a king of the 

Fomors, 67. 
Conchobar, king of Ulster, 29, 147, 

154-156, 158, 160-162, 166-168, 173, 

174, 179, 185, 190-192, 193, 195-198, 

200, 201, 204, 227; his treachery 

towards the sons of Usnach, 192-200; 

his tragical death, 155. 
Condates, a war -god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 
Cong, village of, 73, 76. 
Conlaoch, son of Cuchulainn, 177, 178. 
Conn the Hundred Fighter, 201, 202. 
Conn, son of Lr, 143. 

430 Mythology of the British Islands 

Conn, son of Miodhchaoin, 105. 
Connaught, 73, 75, 76, 165, 168. 
Connla, son of Conn the Hundred 

Fighter, 202. 

Contemporary Review ', the, 241. 
Contrary Head, 242. 
Conway, river, 262. 
Cooking-places of the Fenians, 206. 
Cooking-spits of the women of Fian- 

chuiv, 96; at Tara, 98. 
Cooley, see Cualgne. 
Coranians, a mythical tribe of dwarfs, 


Corb, an Iberian god, 64. 
Corbridge, 275. 

Core, son of Miodhchaoin, 105. 
Corca-Duibhne, 70. 
Corca-Oidce, 70. 
Cordeilla, daughter of Leir, in Geoffrey 

of Monmouth's History, 381-383. 
Cordelia, daughter of Shakespeare's 

King Lear, 259, 381. 
Coritiacus, a war-god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 
Cormac, "the Magnificent", 201, 202, 

203, 206, 215, 222, 315. 
Cornwall, 3, 23, 294, 296, 327, 334, 353, 

382, 384. 

Coronation Stone, the, 71. 
Corrib, see Lough Corrib. 
Corspitium, see Corbridge. 
Corwenna, mother of Brennius and 

Belinus, 385. 
Count of Britain, 313 ; of the Saxon 

Shore, 314. 

Court of D6n, the, 252, 317. 
Cow, Balor's Gray, 235, 236, 237, 240; 

Mider's three cows, 57, 176. 
Cow, Book of the Dun, 10, 12, 14, 37, 

156, 164, 175, 184, 202, 227. 
Credne", the bronze- worker of the Tuatha 

De* Danann, 85, 86, 109. 
Crete, 153. 

Creudylad, daughter of the British sky- 
god Lludd, 256, 258, 259, 332, 348, 

381, 407. 
Criminal Resolutions of Britain, the 

Three, 334. 
Cram Croich, 40. 

Cromm Cruaich, 38, 39, 41, 154, 403. 
Cronos, 63, 65, 326. 
"Croppies' Grave", the, at Tara, 72. 

Cruind, the river, 165. 

Cu, son of Diancecht, 62, 90. 

Cualgne, a province of Ulster, 164, 165 


Cuan, head of the Munster Fenians, 218. 
Cuchulainn, chief hero of the Ultonians, 

10, ii, 14, 27, 154, 155, 156, 158-188, 

I92, 193, 202, 204, 210, 217, 223, JB27, 

274, 366; is the son of Lugh, 159-160; 
obvious solar character of, 158-159; 
how he obtained his name, 160-161 ; 
fights in the Tain B6 Chuailgne, 164- 
175; his wooing of Emer, 184-186; 
his raid upon the Other World, 175- 
176; his death, 183; is raised from 
the dead by Saint Patrick, 227. 

Culann, chief smith of the Ultonians, 
161 ; "Culann's Hound", 161, 166. 

"Culture- King", 153. 

Cumhal, father of Finn, 204, 209, aio 


Cunedda, a North British king, 373. 
Cunobelinus, king of Britain, 387. 
Curoi, king of Munster, 147, 154, 179. 
Custennin, 343, 344. 
Cuthbert, Saint, bulls sacrificed to, 413. 
Cwm Cawlwyd, the Owl of, 349. 
Cwn Annwn, the "Hounds of Hell" 

39L 392. 
Cwy, 320. 

Cymbeline, Shakespeare's, 387. 
Cymri, 255, 373. 

Dagda, the, Gaelic god of the Earth, 54, 
78, 79, 87, 98, 107-109, 116, 117, 122, 
132, 135, 136, 138-141, 156, 157, 211, 
213, 228, 230, 240, 243, 269, 346, 366; 
his dress, arms, and harp, 54; his 
porridge-feast, 108 ; is cheated by his 
son Angus, 139; resigns the kingship 
of the Tuatha De" Danann, 140; his 
last appearance, 157. 

Dair of Cualgne, owner of the Brown 
Bull, 165. 

Dalan, druid of Eochaid Airem, 392. 

Danes, the, 230. 

Danu, the mother of the Gaelic gods, 
the same as Anu, q.v., 44, 50, 51, 70^ 
245, 252, 407. 

Dart, river, 414. 

Dartmoor, 392. 

Darvha, Lake, 143-145. 


Deaf Valley, the, 180. 

Dechtire', mother of Cuchulainn, 156, 
159, 160, 181. 

De* Danann, see Tuatha D6 Danann. 

Dee, river, 413. 

Deimne, the first name of Finn, 210. 

Deirdre, 190-200; Deirdre's Farewell to 
Alba, 194-195; Deirdre's Lament over 
the Sons of Usnach, 199-200. 

Demetia, Roman province of, 273, 278. 

Demetrius, an early traveller in Britain, 


11 Demon of the air", Aeife changed into 
a, 145. 

Derivla, a sacred well in the island of 
Inniskea, 415. 

Desmond, fourth Earl of, nicknamed 
"the Magician", 245. 

" Destiny, laying a", a Celtic custom, 
262-265, 340. 

Devon, 312, 392. 

Devwy, the dales of, 320. 

Dialogue of the Riders, the, 205, 222, 
404; Dialogues of Patrick and Ossian, 

Diancecht, the Gaelic god of medicine, 
61, 62, 78, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 90, 
no, 141, 232, 269 ; makes a silver 
hand for Nuada, 78 ; kills his son 
Miach, 81-82; presides over the 
"Spring of Health", no; prescrip- 
tions of Diancecht, 232. 

Diarmait O'Duibhne, the Fenian Adonis, 
209, 212, 215-221, 315. 

Dinadan, Sir, 328. 

Dinas Dinllev, 264. 

Dinas Emrys, 324, 381. 

Dingwall, Registers of the Presbytery 
of, 412. 

Dinnsenchus, 38, 40, 132, 154, 

Dio Cassius, 387. 

Diodorus Siculus, 41, 42, 325. 

Dionysus, rites of, 410. 

Dis Pater, 51, 120, 252, 383. 

Dissull the Giant, 348-349. 

Diwrnach the Gael, the cauldron of, 
346, 349. 

Dobhar, king of Sicily, 96, 98, 102, 103. 

Doctrine of the transmigration of souls, 

36, 37. 

Domnann, Fir, i.e. men of Domnu. 
See Fir Domnann. 

Domnu, a goddess, mother of the 
Fomors, 48, 70, 112; meaning of the 
name, 48; gods of Domnu, 48, 70; 
men of Domnu, 70. 

Don, the British equivalent of the Gaelic 
Danu, 44, 252, 260, 268, 269, 273, 
295, 308, 310, 316; euhemerized into 
a king of Dublin, 372-373. 

Donn, son of Mil6, 126-131, 246. 

41 Donn's House", 246. 

Dormarth, the hound of Gwyn son of 
Nudd, 257. 

Dowth, 137-138. 

Dragon, Red, of Britain, 378; White, 
of the Saxons, 378. 

11 Dragon-mouth", a lake called, 141. 

Dream of Rhonabwy, the, 260, 312, 337, 

Drogheda, 137. 

Drowes, river, no. 

Drudwyn, the whelp of Greid the son 
of Eri, 347. 

Druidism, the religion of the Celts, 35, 
43 ; possibly non-Aryan in origin, 36 ; 
in Gaul, 34; derived from Britain, 35; 
suppressed by the Romans, 399, 400. 

Druids, 18, 33-37, 84, in, 115, 151, 
179, 180, 182, 188, 202, 399-401, 411, 
412, 417; origin of the name, 33; in 
Gaul, 34; in Britain, 35; human 
sacrifices of the druids, 37, 412; the 
druids of Brude, king of the Picts, 

Drumcain, an old name for Tara, 

Dublin, 66, 372. 

Duke of the Britains, the, 313. 

Dulachan, 247, 248. 

Dul-dauna, the, 237, 

Dun Cow, Book of the. See Cow. 

Dundalk, 177. 

Dundealgan, 177, 181, 188, 189. 

Dun Scaith, 175-176. 

Dux Brit an ni arum* See Duke of the 

Dwynwen, Saint, 388. 

Dyfan, Saint, 386. 

Dyfed, or Demetia, a province of South 
Wales, 273, 278, 279, 281, 282, 286, 
298-301, 303, 304, 309, 310, 394. 

Dylan, a British god, 261, 262, 322, 
335. 3^0, 364, 371. 

432 Mythology of the British Islands 

Eagle, of Gwern Abwy, 350; Lieu 

changed into an, 266-268. 
Earl Gerald, 245. 
Easal, king of the Golden Pillars, 96, 


Eber, son of Mile*, 129-131, 146, 153. 
Eber Scot, 120. 

Eboracum, Roman name of York, 275. 
Edeyrn, son of Nudd, 260. 
Edinburgh, the Advocates'Libraryat, n. 
Eel, the Morrfgu takes the shape of an, 

169 ; transformation of the rival 

swineherds into eels, 165. 
Egypt, 120. 
Eigen, the first female saint in Britain, 

Eildon Hills, Arthur living beneath the, 


Elaine, 362. 
Elathan, a king of the Fomors, 49, 50, 

78, 83, 90, 116, 269. 
Elayne, 358. 
Elberich, 392. 

Elders, Dialogue of the. See Dialogue. 
Elen Lwyddawg, wife of Myrddin, 323, 


Eleutherius, Pope, 386. 
Ellylion, the Welsh elves, 393. 
Elton's Origins of English History, 6, 

8, 25, 26, 70, 228, 327, 413. 
Elves, 393. 
Elysium, Celtic. See Other World, 


Emain Macha, the capital of ancient 

Ulster, 28, 29, 158, 160, 161, 162, 

164, 173, 174, 179, 180, 183, 188, 192, 

194, 196, 200, 201, 204. 
Emer, wife of Cuchulainn, 162, 164, 

177, 184-188. 
Enter, the Wooing of, an old Irish saga, 

28, 29, 37, 184. 
Emperor, a title given in Welsh legend 

to Arthur, 314, 338. 
Emrys, a title of Myrddin, 324, 329, 

360, 369. 

Englishmen, Celtic strain in, 3. 
"Entertaining of the Noble Head", 

the, 296. 
Eochaid, son of Ere, king of the Fir 

Bolgs, 69, 73, 74, 75. 
Eochaid Airem, see Airem. 
Eochaid O'Flynn, an Irish poet, 231. 

Ere, king of Tara, 179, 182, 183. 
Eremon, son of Mile", and first king of 
Ireland, 40, 129, 130, 131, 132, 146, 

153. 154- 

Erin, 97, 98, 99, 102, 104, 126, 193, 225, 
231; meaning of the word, 126. 

Eriu, a goddess representing Ireland, 
125, 126, 128, 129. 

Eros, the Gaelic, 56, 140. See Angus. 

Essyllt, wife of March, or Mark. Sea 

Etain, wife of Mider, 57, 139, 147-152, 

154, 224, 331-333- 

Etair, a vassal of King Conchobar, 147. 
Etal Ambuel, father of Caer, 141. 
Etan, wife of Ogma, 62, 87, 239. 
Ethnea, a name of Ethniu in modern 

folklore, 238. 
Ethniu, daughter of Balor, 62, 79, 84, 

90, 269, 371. 
Ethnology in Folklore, Mr. G. L. 

Gomme's, 35, 69, 412, 413, 414, 416. 
Etirun, "an idol of the Britons", 294. 
Etive, Loch, 193. 
Etruscans, the, 20; Etruscan mythology 

in modern Italian folklore, 403. 
Ettard, 358. 
Ettarre, PelUas and, Tennyson's idyll 

of, 358. 
Euhemerism of Gaelic gods, 227-230; 

of British gods, 372-389. 
Euskarian race, 19. 
Evelake, King, 359. 
Evnissyen, son of Penardun, 290, 292, 


Failinis, the hound of the king cf 
Ioruaidh, 96, 97, 104. 

Fairie Queenc, Spenser's, 7, 389. 

Fairies, the, 4, 137, 242-248, 389-393, 
403, 404, 409, 418 ; the old gods are 
remembered as "fairies", 243-248, 
389-393 two varieties of fairy in folk- 
lore, 403 ; Irish and Welsh fairies 
identical in nature, 404; king of the 
Irish fairies, 136 ; king of the Welsh 
fairies, 392; size of the fairies, 404; 
fairy money, 377 ; fairy food, 391 ; 
the "fairy hills", 135-139, 394. 

Fal, the stone of. See Stone of Destiny. 

"Falcon of May", 369; "Falcon of 
Summer", 369. 



Falga, Isle of, 57, 175. 

Falias, a city of the Tuatha De* Danann, 

71, 72. 
Fand, wife of Manannan son of Lr, 

186-188, 202. 
Faraday, Miss, her translation of the 

Tdin B6 Chuailgnt, 164. 
Fata Morgana, 395. 
Fate of the Children of Ler, 142-146 ; 

of the Sons of Tuirenn, 90-105; of 

the Sons of Usnach, 190-200. 
Fea, a war-goddess, wife of Nuada, 52. 
"Feast of Age", Manannan's, 61, 98, 


Feast of Lugh, see Lugnassad. 

Feast of St. John, 409. 

Fee's Pool, on the Boyne, 210. 

Fedlimid, vassal to King Conchobar, 

Fenians, the, n, 17, 155, 201, 203-209, 
211-215, 217-219, 220-223, 225, 226, 
314, 315; real or mythical, 203-205; 
origin of, 206; duties of, 206; accom- 
plishments of, 207; chief heroes of, 
207-209 ; destruction of, at the battle 
of Gabhra, 222; stories of, 209-226; 
the Fenian sagas possibly non-Aryan, 

Fenius Farsa, 120. 

Ferdiad, a warrior slain by Cuchulainn, 
172, 173, 184. 

Fergus, son of Finn, 208. 

Fergus, son of Roy, an Ulster hero, 14, 
166, 167, 170, 171, 175, 192-196, 198, 

Fergusson, Dr. James, 76, 114, 137, 138. 

Festivals, Celtic solar or agricultural, 

Ffordd Elen, 324. 

Fiacha, son of Conchobar, 197, 198. 

Fiachadh, king of Ireland, 206. 

Fiachra, son of LeY, 143. 

Fianchuive", submarine island of, 97, 104. 

Fianna Eirinn, see Fenians. 

Figol, son of Mamos, druid of the 
Tuatha De* Danann, 90. 

Findabair, daughter of Medb, 168. 

Findias, a city of the Tuatha Dd Danann, 
71. 72. 

Finn mac Coul (Cumhail), 4, n, 16, 37, 
146, 155, 201, 203, 204, 206, 207, 208, 
209, 210-218, 220-222, 224, 226, 246, 
( B 219 ) 

254, 274, 314, 315; his upbringing 
and boy-feats, 209-210; reorganizes 
the Fenians, 211; is killed at the Ford 
of Brea, 222 ; is reborn as Mongan, 
an Ulster chief, 37; is he historical or 
mythical, 204; parallels between Finn 
and Arthur, 314-315. 

Finn mac Gorman, compiler of the Book 
of Leinster, 10. 

Finn the Seer; 210. 

Finola, daughter of Lr, 143. 

Finvarra, king of the Irish fairies, 243, 
244, 405. 

Fiona Macleod, Miss, 241. 

Fionn, see Finn. 

Fionnbharr, the sfdh of Meadha assigned 
to, 136; his appearance in the Fenian 
sagas, 212; becomes fairy king of 
Ireland, 243. 

Fir Bolgs, an Iberian tribe, 68-70, 72- 
78, 114, 125, 229, 230, 407. 

Fir Domnann, an Iberian tribe, 68-70, 
76, 172. 

Fir Gaillion, an Iberian tribe, 68-70, 76. 

Fish, sacred, 416. 

Fly, Etain changed into a, 147 ; Lugh 
takes the form of a, 159; a sacred, 416. 

Folklore, Ethnology in. See Ethnology. 

Folk-tales, Irish, 233-240; Welsh, 371. 

Fomors, Gaelic deities of Death, Dark- 
ness, and the Sea, n, 48-50, 67, 70, 
7, 83, 86, 88, 89, 90, 98, 107-117, 

120, 122, 157, 2O5, 225, 229, 230, 252, 

269, 274, 327, 406 ; meaning of the 

name, 48 ; their war with the Tuatha 

D6 Danann, 107-117; are the Loch- 

lannach in the Fenian sagas, 205. 
Forgall the Wily, father of Emer, 162, 

163 164, 184. 
Fotla, a goddess representing Ireland, 

125; an ancient name of Ireland, 126. 
"Four Ancient Books of Wales", the, 

IT, 15. See also Skene, 
"Four Branches of the Mabinogi", the, 

14, 15, 251, 278, 289, 312, 355. 
" Four-cornered castle ", the, 366. 
Frazer's Golden Bough, 33. 
" Frivolous Battles -of Britain, The 

Three", 334. 
Frogs, sacred, 416. 
Fury, Great, and Little Fury, two 

swords of Mananndn, 60, 217. 

434 Mythology of the British Islands 

Gabhra, battle of, 222, 223, 225, 315. 
Gabius, a Roman consul, 385. 
Gabriel Hounds, the, 392. 
Gae bolgi Cuchulainn's spear, 170, 173, 

Gaels, 68, 69, 70, 71, 76, 93, 108, 119, 

124, 149, 183, 203, 204, 230, 357. 
Gaiar, son of Manannan, 202. 
Gaillion, Fir. See Fir Gaillion. 
Galahad, Sir, 362, 368, 369. 
Galan-mai, Welsh spring festival, 408. 
Gan Ceanach, 247. 
Garden of the Hesperides, the, 95, 98, 


Gargantua, Rabelais', 386. 
Gast Rhymri's cubs, 347, 349. 
Gaul, 22, 274, 276, 383, 384, 385. 
Gauls, the, 22, 23, 119, 230. 
Gavida, 238, 239. 
Gavidjeen Go, 235. 
Gawain, Sir, 360, 363, 364, 369, 375. 
Gcasa, taboos among the Irish Celts, 177, 

195, 216. 

Genii locorum, 43. 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, 9, 121, 251, 

254, 259, 276, 323, 324, 330, 336, 372, 

373-376, 381. 384- 
George's Hill, Saint, 29, 
Geraint, 312, 387. 
Giklas, a British writer, 400. 
" Glamour, the Realm of", an old name 

for Dyfed, 279. 
Glamour put on Cuchulainn by Cath- 

bad, 178 ; by the daughters of Calatin, 

179, 180; put on the sons of Usnach, 

198 ; on Arianrod, 264, 265 ; on 

Dyfed, 298. 
Glass Castle, of the Fomors, 67; a 

synonym for the other world, 320, 


Glastonbury, 260, 329. 

Glastonbury Tor, 272, 390. 

Glenn Faisi, 130. 

Glora, Isle of, 144, 145, 146. 

Glyn Cuch, 279, 281. 

Gobhan Saer, the, 232, 235, 240. 

Goibniu, Gaelic god of smithcraft, 6r, 
84, 86, 98, 109, no, 141, 231, 232, 
238, 239, 261, 371 ; forges the weapons 
of the Tuatha D6 Danann, 61, 109; 
kills Ruadan, no; his ale, 61; sur- 
vives in tradition as the Gobhan Saer, 

<j.v. ; as a character in folk-tale, 232- 

240. See Gavida and Gavidjeen Go. 
Goidel, a mythical ancestor of the Irish, 

1 20. 

Goidels, the, 21, 22, 23, 24, 35. 
Golden bough, the mistletoe the, 33. 
Golden Pillars, king of the. See Easal. 
Goll, 209, 211, 222. 
Gomme, Mr. G. L., 20, 35, 69, 412, 

413, 414, 416. 

Gonorilla, daughter of Leir, 381, 382. 
Gore, 357. See Gower. 
Goreu, Arthur's cousin, 317, 338. 
Gorias, a city of the Tuatha D Danann, 

7i 72, 97- 
Govannan son of D6n, British god of 

Smithcraft, 261, 313, 316, 345; kills 

his nephew Dylan, 261; assists 

Kulhwch, 345. 
Gower regarded as part of the other 

world, 272, 356, 357, 373. 
Grail, the Holy, 2, 7, 273, 357~359. 3 6 5~ 


Grainne, 209, 215-221, 315. 
Graves of the Warriors, the Verses of 

the, 272, 311, 334. 
Gray of Macha, Cuchulainn's horse, 174, 

181, 182, 183. 

Greece, i, 20, 68, 99, 100, 101, 155. 
Greek mythology, ancient, i, 2, 4 ; 

modern, 403. 
"Green Meadows of Enchantment", 

the, 394. 

Gregory, Lady, 159, 201. 
Greid, the son of Eri, 347, 350. 
Gresholm Island, 294, 356, 394. 
Grianainech, the "sunny- faced", an 

epithet of Ogma, 59. 
Grianan Aileach, grave of Nuada at. 

See Aileach. 

Gronw Pebyr, 265, 266, 268. 
Guanius, Gwyn as a mythical king of 

the Huns, 375. 
Guest, Lady Charlotte, 253, 255, 268, 

278, 289, 295, 298, 308, 317, 337, 339, 

340. 348. 35. 3 6 9. 377- 
Guinevere, Arthur's queen, 315, 334, 

357. 359 365. 375. 4<>7. 
Gunvasius, king of the Orkneys, 376. 
Gurgiunt Brabtruc, king of Britain, 385. 
Guyon, Sir, in Spenser's Fairie Quecne, 

7, 389- 



Gwalcbaved, 369. 

Gwalchmei, 323, 330, 334, 335, 338, 343, 

360, 364, 368, 369, 375. 
Gwales, island of, 294, 296, 356. 
Gwarthegyd, son of Kaw, 337. 
Gwawl, son of Clud, Pwyll's rival for 

Rhiannon, 284, 285, 303, 362, 380. 
Gweddw, owner of a magic horse, 347. 
Gweir, a form of the name Gwydion, 

q.v., 319, 321, 322. 
Gwenbaus, Sir, 359. 
Gwern, son of Matholwch and Branwen, 

291, 292, 293. 
Gwinas, Sir, 359. 
Gwlgawd Gododin, the drinking-horn 

of, 346. 

Gwragedd Annwn, 393. 
Gwrhyr, a companion of Arthur, 343, 

349. 350. 35i- 

Gwri of the Golden Hair, 287. 
Gwrnach the Giant, 346, 348. 
Gwyar, wife of Lludd, 323, 338, 369. 
Gwyddneu Garanhir, his dialogue with 

Gwyn, 255-258; his magic basket, 346. 
Gwyddolwyn Gorr, the magic bottles of, 

34 6 - 

Gwydion son of D6n, the British Mer- 
cury, 260-268, 305, 306, 308-311, 316, 
317, 322, 327, 330, 335, 358, 360, 364, 
37L 372, 373. 377; druid of the gods, 
260; father of the sun-god, 261; fights 
the " Battle of the Trees", 306; is the 
British equivalent of the Teutonic 
Woden, 260; his place taken in later 
myth by Arthur, 316. 

Gwyl Awst % the Welsh August festival, 

Gwyllion, 393. 

Gwyn son of Nudd, British god of the 
Other World, 7, 254-259, 272, 313, 

3*5. 3 2 9. 332, 348, 359. 3 6 S 371, 372, 
376, 389-393, 405, 407; attributes of, 
255; his dialogue with Gwyddneu 
Garanhir, 255-258; contends with 
Gwyn for Lludd's daughter Creudylad, 
259; is made warder of Hades, 254- 
255; prominent in the Arthur legend, 
359; becomes king of the Welsh 
fairies, 392; his interview with Saint 
Collen, 389-391. 

Gwynas, Sir, 359. 

Gwyngelli, a companion of Arthur, 352. 
( B 219 ) 

Gwynhwyvar, 315, 206, 331-333, 334, 

364. See Guinevere. 
Gwynn Mygddwn, the horse of Gweddw , 

Gwynwas, a form of the name Gwyn, 

0-V-. 33 2 . 359- 
Gwyrd Gwent, father of one of the three 

Gwynhwyvars, 331. 
Gwyrthur, son of Greidawl, contends 

with Gwyn for Creudylad, 258, 259, 

348, 407; father of one of the three 

Gwynhwyvars, 331. 

Hacket, Castle, 244. 

Hades, the Celtic. See Other World, 


Hades, the Greek god, 152, 260. 
"Hades, Head of", a name given to 

Pwyll, 278, 282. 
Hallowe'en, 40, 153, 407, 410. 
Hamitic languages, 19. 
" Happy Plain", the, 133, 135, 186. See 

Mag Mell. 
Hare held sacred by the Ancient Britons, 


Harlech, 289, 294, 295, 296. 
Harp of the Dagda, 54, 346; of Angus, 

56; of Teirtu, 346. 

Havgan, a king of Annwn, 279, 281. 
Hawthorn, chief of Giants, father of 

Olwen, 340, 341, 343-345. 349> 353- 
Heifer, a black-maned, called "Ocean", 

80, 117, 240; the Morrfgii takes the 

shape of a, 169-170. 
Hengist, 325. 

Henuinus, Duke of Cornwall, 382, 385. 
Hephaestus, the Gaelic, 61, 63, 233. 
Heracles, 158, 276. 
Here*, 263. 
Hereford, 299. 
Hergest, the Red Book of, n, 258, 260, 

312, 328, 336, 369. 
Herimon, 40. See Eremon. 
4 ' Hero-light", Cuchulainn's, 177, 183. 
"Hero's salmon-leap", Cuchulainn's, 


Hesiod, 65. 

Hesperides, garden of the. See Garden. 
Hesus, a Gaulish god, 52. 
Hevydd the Ancient, father of Rhiannon, 

283, 285. 
Hi Dorchaide, 70. 

436 Mythology of the British Islands 

Hibbert Lectures (for 1886) on Celtic 
Heathendom, Professor Rhys's, 41, 43, 

48, 5 1 ' 54. 57, 59. 9. I2O > 2O 5. 2 3 8 , 
253, 254, 258, 262, 264, 268, 271, 277, 
282, 284, 307, 313, 318, 324, 325, 331, 
377, 408. 

Hill of Uisnech, 69, 324. 

Historia Britonum of Nennius, 9, 336; 
of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 9, 251, 323, 

3 2 4. 33 6 . 372, 373. 374. 375* 37^, 3 8 i 

384, 386. 
Hittites, the, 20. 
Holy Families of Britain, the Three 

Chief, 386. 

Holy Grail, the. See Grail. 
Holy wells, 414-415. 
Homeric and Celtic civilization com- 

pared, 25, 29. 

Hoodie-crow, 52, 53, 169, 271. 
Horse of Manannan mac Lir, 60, 88, 

98; of Gweddw, 347; of Gwyn son of 

Nudd, 255, 256, 348. 
"Hound of Culann", the, 161, 166; 

hound of Lugh, 63; of the king of 

loruaidhe*, 104; hounds of Finn mac 

Coul, 213; hounds of Celtic myth, 

225, 280, 391, 392. 
Hull, Miss Eleanor, her Cuchutlin Saga, 

I55 J 5 6 ' X 59. 184, 19. T 99> 22 7- 
Human sacrifices of the Druids, 37, 38; 

to Cromm Cruaich, 38, 39, 40, 400; 

symbolical, 405, 410, 411. 
Huon of Bordeaux, Sir, 7. 
Huxley, Professor, 19. 
Hy-Breasail, 133. 

Iberians, the, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 35, 68, 
69, 70, 76, 230, 248, 278; their 
physique, 19; language, 19; original 
home, 19; state of culture, 20; gods, 
43, 44, 64. 

Iddawc, the Agitator of Britain, 337, 

llbhreach, son of ManannAn, 136, 140, 

2TI, 222. 

Iliad, the, 75, 156. 

Illann the Fair, son of Fergus mac Roy, 

193. I9 6 ~ I 98. 
" Illusion, the Land of", an old name 

for Dyfed, 279. 
Indech, son of Domnu, a king of the 

Fomors, 48, 70, 83, 90, 108, 112. 

Inniskea, the Lonely Crane of, 146; 

stone worship in, 415. 
Invasions, the Book of, 121. 
loldanach, the " Master of All Arts", a 

title of Lugh, 63, 85, 237, 239. 
lolo Morganwg, bardic name of Mr, 

Edward Williams, 374. 
lolo AfSS., the, 269, 270, 372, 373, 387, 

3 88 . 3 8 9- 

lona, Adamnan, Abbot of, 401. 
loruaidhe, 96, 97, 104. 
Ireland, old names of, 125, 126, 150. 

See also Iweridd. 

Iseult, wife of King Mark, 327, 338, 
Island, submarine, 97, 104. 
11 Island of the Mighty", a bardic name 

for Britain, 292. 
Islands, sacred, 326. 
Ith, 121, 122; Ith's Plain, 66, 122. 
luchar, son of Tuirenn, 90-106. 
lucharba, son of Tuirenn, 90-106. 
Iweridd, i.e. "Ireland", wife of the 

British sea-god Llyr, 258, 270, 271. 

Janus, 383. 

Javelin, Red, one of Mananndn's spears, 

60, 217. 

John, Feast of Saint, 245, 407, 411. 
Jones, the Rev. Edward, on apparitions, 


Joseph of Arimathea, 358, 359, 366. 

Jubainville, M. H. d'Arbois de, 25, 34, 
37, 48, 54, 67, 68, 72, 77, 78, 107, 
120, 124, 128, 132, 158, 188, 202. 

Judgment of Amergin, the, 127. 

Julius Caesar, see Caesar. 

Kacmwri, the servant of Arthur, 352, 


Kaerlud, 376. 
Kai, 326, 327, 338, 343, 348, 349, 350, 

351 ' 
Karitia, see Calais. 

Kay, Sir, 6, 326. 

11 Keening" invented, no. 

Kelli Wic, 334. 

Keltic Researches, Mr. Nicholson's, 3. 

Kenmare, river, 121. 

Kicvn, wife of Pryderi , 289-301. 

Kildare, shrine of St. Bridget at, 228. 

Killaraus, Mount, 324. 

Killarney, Lake, 223, 247. 



" Kingly Castle", see Caer Rigor. 
Kirwans of Castle Racket, the, 244. 
Knights, King Arthur's, 6, 7, 8, 155, 

251, 274, 358, 371. 
Knockainy, 245. 
Knockers, 393, 403. 
Knockma, fairy hill of, 136, 243, 244. 
Knockthierna, 247. 
Knowth, 137, 138. 
Kulhwch, 340, 341, 343, 344, 345, 347, 

Kulhwch and Olwen, the tale of, 258, 

259, 260, 313, 321, 327, 339, 340-353. 

369, 407. 
Kyndellig, 343. 
Kynedyr Wyllt, 348, 352. 

Labhra, Mider's leech, 213. 

Labraid of the Quick Hand on Sword, 

Lady of the Lake, 361. 

Laeg, Cuchulainn's charioteer, 169, 181, 
182, 186. 

Laegaire the Rattle-winner, 163. 

Lakes, twelve chief, of Ireland, 88. 

Lamias, 403. 

Lammas, 407. 

Land of Illusion, 279; of Happiness, 
119, 133; of the Living, 133, 335; of 
Promise, 133, 217, 337; of Summer, 
119, 329; of the Young, 133, 225. 

Laon, 277. 

Larminie, Mr. William, 233. 

Launcelot, Sir, 7, 328, 333, 358, 359, 

362, 365- 
Lear, King % Shakespeare's, 5, 7, 259, 

270, 381. 
Lecan, the Book of, 10, 38, 123, 229; 

the Yellow Rook of, 10, 164. 
Leicester, 270, 383. 
Leinster, 179, 189. 
Leinster, Mount, 140, 211, 212. 
Leinster, the Book of, 10, 38, 55, 56, 

121, 132, 139, 155, 156, 157, 190, 199, 

204, 229. 
Leir, Geoffrey of Monmouth's King, 

Leodogrance, father of Guinevere, 


Leprechaun, 247, 248, 393, 403. 
Lr, the Gaelic sea-god, 60, 140, 142- 

144, 146, 205, 211, 212, 222, 252, 269; 

his rebellion against Bodb the Red, 
140; their reconciliation, 142; the 
fate of the children of, 142-146 ; is 
killed by the Fenian hero Caoilte", 146, 

Levarcham, 196. 

Ley den, 277. 

Lia Fdil, see Stone of Destiny. 

Liban, 186, 202. 

Lismore, the Book of, 10. 

Lla Lluanys, the Manx August festival, 

Llacheu, son of Arthur, 258, 326. 

Llandwynwyn, the church of Dwynwyn 
(Branwen), in Anglesey, 388. 

Lleminawg, 319. 

Lieu (Llew) Llaw Gyffes, the British 
sun-god, 261-268, 276, 305, 306, 322, 

3 2 3. 325. 330. 335. 3 6 . 3 6 4. 3^9. 370; 

his birth, 261 ; and naming, 263 ; 

takes part in the Battle of the Trees, 

306 ; is changed into an eagle, 266 ; 

his place taken in later myth by 

Gwalchmei, 323 ; and in the Arthurian 

legend by Sir Gawain, 360. 
Llevelys, king of France, 378. 
Lloegyr (Loegria), Saxon Britain, 258, 

299, 300, 384. 
Lludd Llaw Ereint, the British Zeus, 252, 

253, 254, 259, 312, 315, 323, 329, 332, 

35. 359. 3 6 4. 375~3 8l 47 J his wife 
Gwyar, 323; puts an end to the 
"Three Plagues of Britain", 377- 
380; founds London, 376; appears in 
the Morte Darthur as King Lot of 
Orkney, 359. 

Llwyd, son of Kilcoed, avenges Gwawl, 
son of Clud, 303, 304. 

Llwyr, son of Llwyrion, the magic 
vessel of, 346. 

Llyn Llyw, the salmon of, 350. 

Llyr, the British sea-god, 252, 259, 269, 
270, 271, 273, 289, 290, 304, 313, 316, 
338, 381, 383, 386; possibly borrowed 
from the Gaels, 270; becomes the 
"King Leir" of Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth, 381; and the "King Lear" 
of Shakespeare, 270, 381 ; founds a 
family of saints, 386; his tomb or 
temple at Leicester, 383. 

Llyr-cestre, 270, 283. 

Llys Ddn t 252, 317. 

438 Mythology of the British Islands 

Llywarch Hn, a sixth-century British 

poet, xi. 
Loch, a warrior slain by Cuchulainn, 

Lochlann (Lochlin), 97, 205, 372; Loch- 

lannoch, the, 205, 2x1. 
London, 294, 296, 376, 377. 
Londres, 376. 
Lot or Loth, king of Orkney, 359, 364, 

Loucetius, a war-god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 
Lough Corrib, its Stores and Islands, 

Sir William Wilde's, 76. 
Lough Gur, 246, 
Lucan, the Roman poet, 52. 
Luchtaine', the carpenter of the Tuatha 

D< Danann, 61, 84, 86, 109. 
Lud, king of Britain, 5, 7, 376-381. 
Ludesgata, Ludgate, 5, 254, 376. 
Lugaid, son of Curoi, 179, 182, 183. 
Lugh Lamhfada, the Gaelic sun-god, 

62-63, 84-90, 93-97, 103, 105, 106, 

111-113, 115-117, 136, 139, 156, 157, 

160, 170, 201, 230, 233, 238-240, 262, 

276, 3 2 5. 339. 344. 345. 37O, 37* \ his 
spear, 63, 71, 97; his hound, 63, 97; 
his rod-sling and chain, 62; his first 
appearance at Tara, 84; gains the 
title of loldanack, 85 ; avenges his 
father's murder upon the sons of 
Tuirenn, 94-106; leads the Tuatha 
De* Danann against the Fomors, in; 
prophecies to Conn the Hundred 
Fighter, 201. 

Lvgnassad, " Lugh's Commemoration", 

277, 409. 

Lugudunum, "town of Lugus", 277, 

Lugus, the Gaulish sun-god, 42, 276, 


Lundy Island, 272, 322. 
Lydney, temple of Nodens at, 254; 

monograph upon it, 254, 
Lyons, 277, 409. 

Mab, Queen, 246. 

Mabinogi, the Four Branches of the, 

14. 15. 355- 

Mabinogion, 12, 14, 16, 356, 372, 377, 
403, 407. See also Guest, Lady 

Mabon, a British sun-god, 276, 328, 330, 

335. 338. 347, 34^-352, 387- 
Macaulay, 22. 
Mac Cecht, a king of the Tuatha D6 

Danann, 122, 125, 126, 130. 
Mac Cuill, a king of the Tuatha De* 

Danann, 122, 125, 126, 130. 
Mac Gee, Thomas D'Arcy, 232. 
Mac Greine*, a king of the Tuatha D 

Danann, 122, 125, 126, 130. 
Mac Kineely, 238-239. 
Mac Moineanta, a king of the Irish 

fairies, 242. 

Mac Nia, an old Irish poet, 138. 
Mac Oc, "Son of the Young ", a title of 

Angus, 56, 139, 
Mac Pherson's Ossian, 203. 
Mac Samthainn, 238. 
Macha, a war-goddess of the Gaels, 52, 

72, 112; meaning of her name, 52; 

" Macha's acorn-crop", 53; is killed 

by Balor, 112. 
Macleod, Miss Fiona, 241. 
Maelmuiri, scribe of the Book of the 

Dun Cow, 10. 
Maelon, 388. 
Maenor Alun, 310; Maenor Penarth, 


Maen Tyriawc, the grave of Pryderi, 311. 
Maglaunus, Duke of Albania, 382, 383. 
Mag Alell, the " Happy Plain ", a name 

for the Celtic Elysium, 133, 135. 
Mag A/on, the " Plain of Sports", 

name for the Celtic Elysium, 134. 
Mag Slecht, human sacrifices at, 38-40, 

132, 154- 

Mag Tuireadh, see Moytura. 
Magog, 229. 
Malory, Sir Thomas, 323, 328, 330, 333, 

354-357, 35^-3 6 4, 3 6 7, 3^8. 

Malvasius, king of Iceland, 376. 

Man, Isle of, 23, 24, 57, 60, 175, 241, 
261, 272, 273, 408, 409. 

Manannan son of Lr, a Gaelic god, 
60-61, 89, 98, 129, 134, 136, 140, 143, 
157, 186, 188, 199, 202, 203, 205, 217, 
224, 233, 235-237, 239, 240-242, 270, 
371, 405; his armour, 60, 88; weapons, 
60, 217; horse, 60, 89, 98; mantle, 61, 
129, 188, 217, 221; pigs, 6i f 98; his 
11 Feast of Age M , 61, 143; lord of the 
Celtic Paradise, 134 ; his wife Fand in 



love with Cuchulainn, 186-188; his 
friendship with Cormac, king of Ire- 
land, 203 ; his message to Saint Col- 
urn ba, 240-241 ; his connection with 
the Isle of Man, 60, 241-242. 

Manawyddan son of Llyr, his British 
analogue, 270, 271, 273, 289, 290, 293, 
294, 296, 298-304, 313, 315, 317, 321, 
338, 352, 373; his attributes, 270-271; 
accompanies Bran to Ireland, 289- 
294; marries Rhiannon, 298; defeats 
the magic of Llwyd, son of Kilcoed, 
301-304; constructs the bone-prison 
ofOethand Anoeth, 270; helps Arthur 
in the chase of Twrch Tnvyth, 352. 

Maponos, a Gallo-British sun-god, 276, 

March, a British god of the Under 
World, 316, 327, 329, 335, 338. 

Mark, King, 327, 328. 

Mars, 51, 204. 

11 Master of All Arts ", see loldanach, 

Math, a British god, brother to D6n, 
260, 265, 266, 268, 308, 310, 322, 329, 
360, 361, 364; meaning of his name, 
260; teaches magic to Gwydion, 260; 
rules from Caer Dathyl, 308 ; com- 
pared with Merlin, 360, 361, 362. 

Matholwch, king of Ireland, 289-293. 

M&thonwy, father of Math, 260, 308. 

A/ at it re de Dretagne, the, 363, 365. 

Matthew Arnold, 3, 16, 356. 

May Day, 123, 259, 287, 407. 

May Eve, 377, 407. 

Maypole, 408. 

Meadha, the sidh of, 136, 212, 243. 

Meath, 179. 

Medb, queen of Connaught, 147, 154, 
164-168, 170, 171, 172, 175, 178, 179, 
183, 200, 246; makes war on Ulster 
to get the Brown Bull of Cualgne, 
165-166; becomes a fairy queen, 246; 
is perhaps the original of "Queen 
Mab", 246. 

Mediterranean race, 19 ; Mediterranean 
Race, The, Prof. Sergi's, 20. 

Medrawt, 315, 323, 332, 333, 334, 337, 

3 60 , 3 6 4- 

Meleaus, or Melias, de Lile, Sir, 359. 
Melga, king of the Picts, 375. 
Meliagaunce, or Meliagrauncc, Sir, 359, 

365, 407. 

Melwas, 329, 332, 359, 365, 407. 

Menai Straits, the, 262, 264. 

Menw, 343, 344, 351. 

Mercurius Artaius, a Gallo-Roman god, 

274. 3*3- 

Mercury, 274, 313. 
Merlin, 324, 325, 339, 360, 361, 364. 

See Myrddin. 

Mesgegra, king of Leinster, 147, 154. 
Meyer, Dr. Kuno, 38, 134, 154, 184, 


Miach, son of Diancecht, 62, 80-82, 232. 
Midas, the British, 328. 
Mider, Gaelic god of the Under World, 

56, 57, 117, 136, 140, 142, 147-iS 1 . 

154, 157, 175, 179, 205, 211-213, 224, 

243, 331-333; rebels against Bodb 

the Red, 140 ; gambles with Eochaid 

Airem for possession of Etain, 149; 

is besieged in his sidh, and helped by 

the Fenians, 211-213. 
Midsummer Day, 75, 406, 407. 
Midsummer Eve, 242. 
Mite, the ancestor of the Gaels, 122, 

123, 126, 129, 130, 132, 146, 153. 
Milesians, the, 76, 125-127, 129, 145, 

153, 229, 230, 243. 
11 Milky Way ", the, 62, 253, 268. 
Minerva, 275, 277, 413. 
Minos, 153. 

Miodhchaoin, 97, 105, 106. 
Mistletoe, 18, 33. 
Mithras, a Persian sun-god worshipped 

at York, 275. 
Mochdrev, 310. 
Mochnant, 310. 
Modron, wife of Urien and mother of 

Mabon, 328, 338. 
Mona, see Anglesey. 
Mongan, an Ulster prince, a reincar- 
nation of Finn mac Coul, 37. 
Monmouth, Geoffrey of. See Geoffrey. 
More, son of Dela, a king of the 

Fomors, 67, 327. 
Mordred, Sir, 315, 334, 360, 364, 374, 


Morgawse, sister to Arthur, 323. 

Morrfgii, the, Gaelic goddess of war, 
5 2 53. 72, 87, 98, 107, 113, 117, 139, 
157, 168-170, 323; description of, 52; 
her dealings with Cuchulainn on the 
Tain B6 Chuailgne, 168-170, 

440 Mythology of the British Islands 

Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory's, 
7, 272, 276, 323, 328, 334, 354, 362, 
364-368, 372, 407. 

"Mound, Lord of the", 41, 403. 

Mountains of Ireland, the twelve chief, 

Mourie, "Saint", 413. 

Mouse, Manawyddan and the, 301-304 

Moyle, Sea of, 144, 145. 

Moytura, Northern, Battle of, n, 107- 
117, 157, 407; Southern, Battle of, 
72-77, 114. 

Muirthemne, 90, 93, 166, 181. 

Munster, 69, 164, 218, 244, 245. 

Murias, a city of the Tuatha D6 Danann, 
71, 72. 

Mur y Castell, Lleu's palace near Bala 
Lake, 265, 268. 

Myrddin, a British Zeus, 323-325, 329, 
360, 362, 369; gave its first name to 
Britain, 323; his wife Elen, 323; his 
town Carmarthen, 324; appears in 
Geoffrey of Monmouth and in the 
Morte Darthur as Merlin, q.v. 

Myrddin, a sixth-century British bard, 

Mythology, importance of, i; Greek, i, 
2, 4, 403; Scandinavian, 3; Celtic, its 
influence on English literature, 6, 7; 
on mediaeval chivalric romance, 184. 

Name, ancient British superstitions with 

regard to, 263. 
Names, Choice of, The. See Coir An- 

Names, early of Britain, 292, 323; of 

Ireland, 126, 150, 151. 
Nant Call, 310. 
Nant y Llew, 267. 

Naoise, son of Usnach, 191-193, 195-198. 
Narberth, 279, 281, 282, 283, 288, 298, 


Navan Fort, 158. 
Neamhuainn, Clann, 216, 218. 
Neath, Vale of, 255, 335, 392. 
Nedd, river, 405. 
Neevougi, a stone worshipped at Innis- 

kea, 415. 
Nemed, 67-69, 274; the race of, 229, 

230. 3 2 7. 406. 
Nemetona, a war-goddess worshipped 

at Bath, 275, 276. 

Nemon, a Gaelic war-goddess, wife of 

Nuada, 52, 276. 

Nennius, \\isHistoryofthe Britons & 336. 
Nentres, King, 357, 362. 
Nereids, 403. 
Nt, an Iberian god, 64. 
New Grange, 137-139. 
Nia, the Plain of, 73. 
Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of 

Manannan, 223-225. 
Nicholson's Keltic Researches, 3. 
Niebelungcnlicd, 393. 
Ninme, 358, 361, 362. 
Nissyen, son of Penardun, 290, 293. 
Niul, 120. 
Noah, descent of the Gaelic gods and 

men from, 329. 

Nodens, a temple to, at Lydney, 253. 
"Northern Crown", constellation of 

the, 252. 
Nos galan-gaeof, the Welsh winter 

festival, 408. 
Nuada of the Silver Hand, a Gaelic 

Zeus, 51, 52, 74, 75, 78, 80, 81, 83-86, 

93, 94, 105, 122, 157, 230, 253, 276, 

323; his sword, 51, 71; his wives, 52; 

his hand cut off in battle, 75; a silver 

hand made for him by Diancecht, 78; 

his own hand renewed by Miach and 

Airmid, 81; his death at the hands 

of Balor, 112; his tomb at Grianan 

Aileach, 122, 157. 
Nudd, British god, 252, 253, 254, 313; 

to be identified with Lludd, q.v. 
Nutt, Mr. Alfred, 12, 37, 38, 134, 154, 

158, 164, 318, 348. 
Nwyvre, 322, 364. 
Nynniaw, son of Beli, 268, 269, 313. 

Oak, held sacred by the Druids, 33. 

Oberon, 7, 392. 

" Ocean", a black-maned heifer called, 
80, 240. 

Ochall Ochne, king of the Sfdhe of Con- 
naught, 164. 

Ochren, battle of, 305; Caer, 320, see 

Octriallach, son of Indech, no; the 
" Cairn of Octriallach", no. 

O'Curry, Eugene, 37, 56, 63, 72, 78, 89, 
93, in, 113, 137, 138, 146, 151, 152 
155, 1 88, 201, 204. 


44 1 

Odin, 260. 

O'Donaghue, the, 247. 

O Donovan, 238. 

Oeth and Anoeth, the Bone-prison of, 
270, 271, 317, 373. 

O'Flynn, Eochaid, an old Irish poet, 

Ogam, writings in, 58, 93, 151, 189. 

Ogma, Gaelic god of Literature and 
Eloquence, 57-60, 79, 80, 82, 84, 85, 
112, 116, 117, 122, 136, 139, 157, 276; 
his wife and children, 57; his epithets 
of "Cermait" and l< Grianainech",57, 
59; his great strength, 59; kills Indech 
in the battle of Moytura, 112; inven- 
tor of the ogam alphabet, 58. 

Ogmios, a Gaulish god, 276. 

O'Grady, Standish Hayes, Mr., 28, 159, 
201, 203, 205, 207, 213, 215, 222. 

Ogyrvran, a British god of the Under 
World, father of Gwynhwyvar, 329- 

331. 357. 3 66 - 

O'Herlebys, wooden idol of the, 413. 
Old Plain, the, 66. 
Old Sarum, 29, 386. 
Olwen, 340, 341, 343, 345, 353. 
Onagh, queen of the Irish fairies, 243, 

Origins of English History, Mr. Elton's, 

6, 8, 25, 26, 70, 228, 327, 413. 
Orkneys, 386; King Lot of Orkney, 359. 
Oscar, son of Ossian, 208, 212, 217, 222, 

246, 315. 

Osla Big- Knife, 352, 353. 
Ossian, Mac Pher son's, 203. 
Ossian, son of Finn mac Coul, n, 208, 

212, 214, 215, 217, 220, 223-227, 246, 

3 l8 337- 

11 Ossianic ballads", 205, 208, 213; Ossi- 
anic Society, see Transactions. 

Other World, the Celtic, 65, 68, 71, 98, 
119, 121, 133-136, 150, 151, 175, 176, 
201, 202, 203, 224, 252, 255, 270, 271, 
272, 273, 278, 279, 281, 305, 307, 316, 
317, 318-322, 329, 334, 336, 366, 387, 
389, 395; different names of , 133, 318- 
320; descriptions of, 136, 150-151, 
224; variously imagined as upon the 
sea, 202, 224, 272, 394; under the sea, 
305; under the earth, 135-136; upon 
earth, 271, 272, 273, 278, 279; original 
abode of men, 119; visited by Cuchu- 

lainn, 175-176, 186; Conn, 201; Conn- 
la, 202, Ossian, 224; Pwyll, 281; Gwyd- 
ion, 305; Arthur, 317-320. See also 
Annwn, Avilion, Happy Plain, Mag 
Mell, Mag Mon, Land of Happiness, 
of the Living, of Promise, of Summer, 
of the Young. 

Ousel of Cilgwri, 349. 

Ovid's Metamorphoses, 393. 

Owain, son of Urien, 328, 330; Sir 
Owain, 363. 

Owl, of Cwm Cawlwyd, 349; Blodeu- 
wedd changed into an, 268. 

Ox, the brindled, 320, 321; oxen, magic, 

Oxford, 379. 

Paradise, the Celtic. See Other World, 


Parthludd, 254, 376. 
Partholon, 65-68, 386; race of, 229, 230, 

Patrick, Saint, 8, 40, 41, 132, 145, 222, 

225, 226, 227, 242, 401, 402. 
Paul's Cathedral, Saint, 254. 
Pausanias's Description of Greece , 36. 
Pedigree of the gods, 229 ; of Finn mac 

Coul, 204. 

Pedryvan, Caer, 319, 356, 367. 
Peel Castle, 242. 

Peibaw, son of Beli, 268, 269, 313. 
Pelasgoi, 20. 
Peleur, King, 368. 
Pellam, King, 358, 364. 
Pellean, King, 358. 
Pelleas, Sir, 358, 368; Pelkas and 

Ettarre, Tennyson's Idyll of, 358. 
Pelles, King, 357, 362, 367. 
Pellinore, King, 362. 
Pembroke, County Guardian, the, 394. 
Pembrokeshire, 273, 278, 394. 
Pen Annwn, the " Head of Hades", a 

title of Pwyll, 278, 282. 
Penardun, daughter of Beli and wife of 

Llyr, 269, 270, 289, 290, 293. 
Pendaran Dyfed, 288, 295. 
Pendragon, meaning of the word, 330. 
Pennant, 409. 

Percivale, Sir, 359, 363, 368, 369, 
Peredur, 330, 368, 369. 
Perilous glens, the, 163. 
Persephone" , the British, 259, 260. 

442 Mythology of the British Islands 

Persia, 274; Pisear, king of, 96, 97, 101- 


Petrie, Dr., 72, 98, 114. 

Picts, 23, 230, 401, 417. 

Pigs, in the Celtic Other World, 136; 
of Manannan, 61, 63; of Easal, king 
of the Golden Pillars, 96, 97, 103; of 
Pryderi, 308, 316, 327; of March, 316, 
327; of Angus, 214; Cian changed 
into a pig, 91. 

Pigskin of King Tuis, the, 96, 99, 100. 

Pillars, king of the Golden. See Easal. 

Pisear, king of Persia, 96, 97, 101-103. 

Pixies, 393. 

Plain of 111 Luck, 163; of the Sea, 72; 
of Adoration, 38; the Old, 66. 

Plin X. 33. 35. 400- 

Plutarch, 326. 

Pluto, the Gaelic, 57; the Cambrian, 

Poetry, the Gaelic goddess of, 56; 
cauldron of inspiration and, 365-370. 

Policy of the Christian Church towards 
objects of pagan worship, 417. 

Pookas, 247, 248, 393, 403, 405. 

Porsenna, a Roman consul, 385. 

Poseidon, 52, 260; the Gaelic, 60; the 
British, 269. 

Posidonius, 26. 

Prophecy of Badb, 117-118; of Eriu, 
125-126; of the seeress to Queen 
Medb, 166; of Lugh to Conn the 
Hundred- Fighter, 201-202; of Cath- 
bad concerning Cuchulainn, 161, con- 
cerning Deirdre, 190-191. 

Pryderi, son of Pwyll and Rhiannon, 
273, 286-288, 289, 294, 295, 298-301, 

303-305. 308, 309-3 1 *. 3!3 315. 3i6, 
319, 321, 327, 335, 358, 364, 366, 368, 
377. 47*. is stolen at birth, 286; 
meaning of his name, 288; accom- 
panies Bran to Ireland, 289-294; is 
spirited away by Llwyd and recovered 
by Manawyddan, 300-304; receives a 
present of pigs from Annwn, 308; is 
killed by Gwydion, 311; appears in 
Arthurian legend, 358. 

Prydwen, Arthur's ship, 319, 320, 352. 

Puck, 393. 

Puffin Island, 322. 

Pursuit of Diarmait and Grainne, The t 

Pwccas, 393. 

Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed and " Head of 

Annwn", 273, 274, 278-288, 298, 303, 
304, 305, 308, 316, 319, 329, 357-35*, 
366, 367, 380; changes shapes with 
Arawn, king of Annwn, 281 ; his 
wooing of Rhiannon, 282-286 ; is 
owner of a magic cauldron in Hades, 
321 ; and keeper of the Holy Grail in 
the Morte Darthur, 357-358. 
Pwynt Maen Dulan, 262. 

Queen Guinevere, 315, 334, 357, 359, 

3 6 5 375. 407- 

"Queen Mab", 246. 

Queen of the Irish fairies, 243, 244; of 
the fairies of Munster, 244; of the 
fairies of North Munster, 244 ; of the 
fairies of South Munster, 244. 

Queene, The Fairie, Spenser's, 7. 

Quicken-tree, the magic, 219. 

Races of Britain, the, 19-21. 

Rathconrath, 69. 

" Realm of Glamour, The", a name for 
Dyfed, 279. 

Re-birth of Cuchulainn, 37; of Finn 
mac Coul, 37. 

Red Book of Hergest, see Hergest, 

Red Branch Champions of Ulster, the, 
4, 147, 157, 167, 183, 191, 192, 204, 
227, 314. 

Red Branch House, the, 29, 196, 197. 

Red Dragon of Britain, the, 378. 

Redynvre, the stag of, 349. 

Regan, daughter of King Leir, 381, 

Religion, Aryan, 32, 47, 

Retaliator, the, the sword of Manannan 
mac Lir, 60, 198. 

Revelry, the Castle of, 319, 366. 

Revolving Castle, the, 319, 366. 

Revue Celtique, 40, 53, 78, 107, 117, 
142, 158, 184, 190, 201, 241, 246. 

Rhiannon, a British goddess, 273, 282- 
288, 298, 300, 301, 303, 304, 358, 361, 
362, 407; her three magic birds, 273, 
294, 296; her name afterwards cor- 
rupted into Nimuc and Vivien, 358, 

Rhinnon Rhin Barnawd, the magic 
bottles of, 346. 



Rhonabwy, 336, 337, 338; The Dream 

of Rhonabwy, 312, 337, 338. 
Rhyd y Groes, a ford on the Severn, 337. 
Rhys, Professor, 22, 23, 35, 41, 44, 64, 

68, 158, 205, 254, 256, 262, 282, 289, 

37, 3*3* 3 l6 . 3 l8 > 3*9, 3 2 4. 33 1 . 335. 

352, 363. 370, 395. 404, 413. 414. 

See also Arthurian Legend and 

Hibbert Lectures. 
Ri, Roi, an Iberian god, 64. 
Ribble, the river, 413, 414. 
Riches, the Castle of, 367. 
Rience, King, 357. 
Rigor, Caer, 319. 
Rigosamos, a war-god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 

Ritual, remains of Celtic, 405-412. 
Rivers, the twelve chief, of Ireland, 88. 
Rivers, the worship of, 413, 414. 
Rodruban, the sldh of Lugh, 136. 
Romans, the, 23, 24, 25, 373, 385, 386, 

399. 4i3- 

Rome, 5, 155, 274, 315, 317. 
Ronan, Clann, 218. 
Round Table, King Arthur's, 6, 314. 
"Round Towers", the, attributed to 

Goibniu, 233. 
Rowan-tree, 219, 410. 
Ruadan, son of Bress and Brigit, 109- 

Rude Stone Monuments, Fergusson's, 

76, 114, 137, 138. 
Ryons, King, 357. 

Sacred animals, 406, 416, 417; islands, 

326; fish, 416; frogs, 416; stones, 406, 

415, 417; trees, 406, 415; wells, 414- 

Sacrifices of animals, 406, 412; human, 

*8, 37-40, 399; symbolical human 

sacrifices, 405, 410, 411. 
Sadb, daughter of Bodb the Red, and 

mother of Ossian, 208. 
"Sage's seat", the, 85, 86. 
St. Catherine's Hill, 29; St. George's 

Hill, 29. 

St. Gall MS., the, 232. 
Saints, transformation of Celtic gods 

into, 6, 228, 229, 372, 386, 389. 
Salisbury Plain, 325. 
Salmon of Knowledge, the, 55, 210; of 

Llyn Llyw, 350. 

Samhain, the Celtic winter festival, 40, 

42, 67, 107, 108, 286, 406, 407, 408, 

410, 411. 
Samhanach, 408. 
Sarn Elen, 324. 

Sarrlog, 386; Caer Sarrlog, 386. 
Satires, magical, 83, 87, 172, 182. 
Scathach the Amazon, 163, 164, 172, 

173, 176. 

Scne*, the river, 121. 
Scot, Eber, a mythical ancestor of the 

Gaels, 120. 
Scota, 120. 
Scotti, 357. 
Sea, Celtic ideas regarding the, 48, 261, 

Second Battle of Moytura, The, the 

Harleian MS. called, 50, 54, 72, 78, 107. 
Seint Great, the, 322, 326, 368. 
Senchan Torpeist, 14. 
Sen Mag, see Old Plain. 
Serapis worshipped at York, 275. 
Setanta, original name of Cuchulainn, 

160, 161. 

Severn, the river, 254, 337, 350, 352, 353. 
Sgeolan, one of Finn's hounds, 213. 
" Shadowy Town, or City", 175, 366. 
Shakespeare, 5, 259, 270, 381, 393, 408. 
Shannon, the river, 88, 165, 292. 
" Shape- shifting", 37. 
Sharvan the Surly, 219. 
Shield, Conchobar's magic, 197. 
Shony, a Hebridean sea-god, 410. 
Shouts on a hill, the three, 94, 97, 105, 


Sicily, 96, 102. 
Sidh Airceltrai, 136; Bodb, 136; Eas 

Aedha Ruaidh, 136; Fionnachaidh, 

136, 140, 142, 146, 222; Meadha, 136, 

243; Rodruban, 136. 
Sidhe, "fairy mounds", 135, 136, 139, 

Sidhe, The, the Gaelic gods, or fairies, 

136, 223, 244, 246. 
Sidi, Caer, 319, 321, 322, 368. 
Silures, tribe of the, 22. 
Silurian race, the, 19. 
Silver Hand, Nuada's, 51, 78, 81, 253; 

Lludd's 253. 

Sinann, goddess of the Shannon, 56. 
Skene, Dr. W. F., 71, 123, 256, 358, 

311, 312, 316, 317, 319, 328, 334, 

444 Mythology of the British Islands 

Skye, Isle of, 163. 

Slecht, Mag. See Mag Slecht. 

Slieve Bloom, 209; Slieve Fuad, 136; 
Slieve Mish, 130. 

Smallpox, goddess of the, 413. 

Snowdon, 267, 305, 335, 380. 

Sol Apollo Anicetus, a sun-god wor- 
shipped at Bath, 275. 

Solar festivals of the Celts, 41, 405-412. 

Solinus, Cains Julius, 228. 

Somerset, 329. 

"Son of the Young", see Mac Oc. 

Sore, the river, 383. 

Sorrowful Stories of Erin, The Three, 

Spain, 22, 121 ; used as an euphemism 
for the Celtic Other World, 68, 120, 
121, 230, 386. 

Spear of Lugh, 62, 97; of Pisear, king 
of Persia, 96, 97, 101, 103. 

"Spearman with the Long Shaft", 369. 

Speech, Aryan, 21, 31. 

Spenser, 7, 389. 

Spey, the river, 414. 

"Splendid Mane", the horse of Man- 
annan mac Lir, 60, 88, 98. 

Spoiling of Annwn, The, a poem of 
Taliesin, 306, 317-321, 366. 

"Spring of Health", the, no. 

Sreng, a warrior of the Fir Bolgs, 75. 

Stag of Redynvre, the, 349. 

Stokes, Dr. Whitley, 40, 50, 72, 78, 107, 
152, 190, 203, 417. 

Stone, Black, of Arddhu, 305; Corona- 
tion, 71; of Destiny, 72; of Kineely, 


Stones, worship of, 406, 415. 
Stonehenge, 42, 324, 325. 
Strabo, 22, 399. 
Strachey, Sir Edward, 356. 
Study of Celtic Literature, Matthew 

Arnold's, 3, 16, 356. 
Sualtam, the mortal father of Cuchu- 

lainn, 159, 160, 173, 174. 
Suir, the river, 165. 
Sul, a goddess worshipped at Bath, 228, 

" Summer, the Land of", i.e. the Celtic 

Other World, 119, 329. 
Sun, worship of the, 41, 42; Cuchulainn 

a personification of the, 158-159. 
Swans Caer and Angus take the forms 

of, 141-142; the children of L&i 

changed into, 143; Mider and Etain 

become, 151. 
Sword, of Manannan, 60, 198; of Nuada, 

51; of Gwrnach the Giant, 346, 348. 
Swinburne, 6. 
Swineherds, the rival, 164-165. 

Table Round, the, 6, 354, 371. 
Taboos, Celtic. See Destiny, Geasa. 
Tacitus, 22, 24, 387, 400. 
Tailtiu, the Gaelic gods defeated by the 

Milesians at, 130. 
Tdin D6 Chuailgne', 10, 14, 28, 159, 

164, 175. 
Taliesin, n, 123, 124, 261, 271, 273, 294, 

296, 306, 317, 318, 320, 321, 328, 356, 

366, 367. 
Taliesin, the Book of, n, 123, 261, 271, 

273. 3 6 3*7, 3 l8 > 321, 328. 
Tallacht, burial-place of Partholon's 

people, 66. 
Tara, 29, 72, 84, 93, 98, 105, 125, 126, 

129, 147, 153, 189, 190, 216, 230. 
Taran, 294. 
Taranis, 294. 

Tathlum, a sting-stone, 112, 113. 
Tavve, a river in South Wales, sacred to 

Gwyn ap Nudcl, 257, 279, 392, 405. 
Tegla's well, Saint, 415. 
Teirnyon Twryf Vliant, 287, 288, 358, 


Teirtu, the harp of, 346. 
Tclltown, see Tailtiu. 
Temple of Nodens at Lydney, 253-254; 

St. Paul's cathedral occupying the 

site of a, 254; sacrifices of cattle on 

the site of a, 413; ancient British 

temples still standing in the sixth 

century, 400. 
Tennyson, 6, 133, 260, 274, 297, 312, 

354, 355> 35*. 3^ 3^ 
11 Terrace cultivation", 20. 
"Terrestrial gods and goddesses", 156. 
11 Terrible Broom, The", name of the 

banner of Oscar's battalion, 209. 
Tethra, a king of the Fomors, 83, 90. 
Teutates, a god of the Gauls, 51, 52. 
Thames, the river, 254. 
Theseus, 153. 
Thirteen Treasures of Britain, the, 313, 

326, 339. 340- 



Three Birds of Rhiannon, the, 273, 
294, 296. 

Three Chief Holy Families of Britain, 

Three Counselling Knights of Arthur, 

Three Cows of Mider, 57, 176. 

Three Cranes of Denial and Churlish- 
ness, 57. 

Three Criminal Resolutions of Britain, 


Three Etains, 331. 

Three Frivolous Battles of Britain, 334. 
Three Generous Heroes of Britain, 253. 
Three Gwynhwyvars, 333. 
Three Paramount Prisoners of Britain, 

3SO-35 1 - 

Three Plagues of Britain, 253, 377-380. 
Three shouts on a hill, 94, 97, 105, 106. 
Three Sorrowful Stories of Erin, 106. 
Three War-knights of Arthur, 312. 
Three Wicked Uncoverings of Britain, 


Tiberius, the Emperor, 400. 
Tigernmas, a mythical Irish king, 153- 

Tighernach, an old Irish chronicler, 


Tir nam beo, see Land of the Living. 
Tir n an og t see Land of the Young. 
Tir Tairngire 1 , see Land of Promise. 
Titania, 393. 

Tomb of the Dagda, 138. 
Tombs of the Tuatha D Danann, 138- 


Torpeist, Senchan. See Senchan. 
Tory Island, 49, 67, 238. 
Toutates, a war-god worshipped in 

Britain, 275. 
Tower Hill, Bran's head buried at, 294, 

296, 331. 
Transactions of the Ossianic Society, 

124, 127, 128, 201, 203, 211, 213, 215, 

223, 226. 
Transmigration of souls, 36; of the 

swineherds, 164-165. 
Treasures of Britain, the Thirteen, 313, 

3 26 339. 340- 

Trees, the Battle of the, 123, 305-308. 
Trees, worship of, 406. 
Triads, n, 253, 273, 331, 334, 350, 351. 
Trim, 175. 

Trinity Well, the source of the Boyne, 


Trinovantum, i.e. New Troy, a mythic 
name of London, 376, 385. 

Tristrem, Sir, 6, 327, 363. 

Trouveres, the, 363. 

Troy, 374. 

Tuatha D Danann, the gods of the 
ancient Gaels, n, 17, 48, 50, 51, 58, 
59, 60, 65, 70-79, 82-86, 91, 95, 97, 
104, 108-112, 114, 115, 117, 123, 125, 
126, 129, 132, 136-138, 140, 141, 145, 
!53. 154. i5 6 I 57. 205, 211, 214, 217, 

219, 222, 225, 228, 229-231, 243, 246, 

252, 269, 276, 312, 330, 393, 403, 404, 
406, 410; their arrival in Ireland, 71, 
72; their battle with the Fomors, 108- 
117; are conquered by the Milesians, 
130; retire into underground palaces, 
J 35' r s6 1 and become the fairies of 
Irish belief, 137. 

Tuirenn, son of Ogma, 57, 90, 106. 

"Tuirenn, the Fate of the Sons of", 

Tuis, king of Greece, 96, 98, 102. 

' Turning Castle", 32tt. 

Tweea, tne river, 23, 411^ 

Twr Bran wen, 289. 

Twrch Trwyth, the hunting of, 347-353. 

Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh fairies, 255. 

Tynwald Hill, 412. 

Tyrian Hercules worshipped at Cor- 
bridge, 275. 

Uaman, sidh of, 141. 

Uaran Garad, spring of, 165. 

Uffern, the "Cold Place", a name for 

Annwn, 319. 

Uisnech, the hill of, 69, 324. 
Ulster, 29, 57, 64, 69, 76, 158, 164, 165, 

166, 171, 174, 175, 180, 183, 188, 189, 

190, 191, 192, 217, 245. 
"Undry", the name of the Dagda's 

cauldron, 54, 366. 
Unius, the river, 107. 
Unsenn, the river, 112. 
Urddawl Ben, see Venerable Head. 
Urien, an Under World king, 328, 329, 

357. 376 ; Uriens, Urience, King, in 

the Morte Darthur, 357; Urianus, 

King, in Geoffrey of Monmouth' 

History, 376. 

446 Mythology of the British Islands 

Usnach, the sons of, 191-200. 

Uther Ben, the " Wonderful Head ", a 

name for Bran, 296, 330, 356. 
Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, 330, 


Val des Fes, in the forest of 


Vandwy, Caer, 257, 320. 
Varro, 26. 
Vedwyd, Caer, 319, 
11 Venerable Head, The", 296. 
Verses of the Graves of the II 'arriors, 

The, 272, 311, 334. 
"Victor, son of Scorcher". See 

Gwyrthur, son of Greidawl. 
Vita Columba, Adamnan's, 401, 417. 
Vivien, 358, 361. 

Wales, the Four Ancient Books of, n, 

15. See Skene. 
Walgan, 375. 

Wall, Roman, 25, 273, 274, 400. 
War-chariots, 27; Cuchulainn's, 28. 
Warrefield, 242. 
"Water-dress", Brian's, 104. 
Waves, the Four, of Britain, 261. 
"Wave-sweeper", Manannan's boat, 

60, 98, 104. 

Weapons of the Celts, 27. 
Wells, worship of, 414, 415; holy, 414. 
Welsh fairies, 255, 392-394. 
Westminster, 407; Westminster Abbey, 


White Dragon of the Saxons, 378. 
White-horned Bull of Connaught, 165, 

I75 ' 
White Mount in London, see Tower 

White- tusk, king of the Boars, 346, 349. 

Wild Huntsman, the, 255. 

Wilde, Sir William, his Lough Corrib, 
76; Lady Wilde's Ancient Legends of 
Ireland, 243, 409. 

Williams, Mr. Edward. See lolo Mor- 
gan wg. 

Wish Hounds, the 392. 

Woden, 260. 

Wolf, the Morrfgu takes the shape of a, 

Women, position of, among the Celts, 

"Wonderful Head", the, 296, 330. 

" Wood of the Two Tents ", the, 216. 

Wordsworth, 4, 5. 

Wren, Lieu and the, 263; a bird of 
augury among the druids, 417. 

Wydyr, Caer, 320. 

Wye, the river, 352. 

Yeats', Mr., The Wanderings of Oisin, 


Yell, or Yeth, Hounds, the, 392. 
Yellow Book of Lecan, the, 10, 164. 
"Yellow Shaft", one of Manann&n's 

spears, 60, 217. 
Ynys Avallon, 329. See Avilion, Glas- 


Ynys Branwen, 295. 
Ynys Wair, 322. See Lundy Island. 
York, 275. 
Young, Land of the, 133, 225 ; Son of 

the, see Mac Oc. 
Yspaddaden Pcnkawr, see Hawthorn, 

Chief of Giants. 

Zeus, 65, 260, 261 ; the Gaelic, 41, 51, 

253; the British, 5, 324. 
Zimmer, Professor, 152. 


A. kress is of four kinds, and marked here: (i) - (weak stress). 

(2) i (medium). 

(3) (strong). 

(4) ; (emphatic). 

Be Cymric words of more than one syllable have the stress regularly on the 

antepenult (although there are some words with the stress on the last ; 

and the negative prefix an often takes full stress). 
Cymric wy = ui; $$ = th in English ///en; 11 (ri) = a broad buzzed 1, 

i.e. like the French 1 unvoiced, sounds like /*/, and is unilaterrl (right 

side) with the tongue in the i position. The thorn letter J? = voiceless 

sound as in English wiM. 

C, Nasality of vowels marked with ( - ) underneath the vowel. 
Interdental (t, d, 1, n) marked with dot underneath. 

1 mouille, i.e. palatal, marked t. 

n ,, ,, ft (cf. Colo^we). 

e = open e ; e = close e ; o = o open ; o = o close. 

r = thin ;- (i.e. r after e, i). 

ce = the mid-front narrow round (close) ; cf. German 6. 

= mid-mixed indefinite sound at end of unstressed syllables, often 

alternating with mid-back (close) vowel a, which is the sound of 
u in Gaelic agws ; the a has the sound of a in father, but it occurs 
both long and short. Doubling of vowels indicates length, a is 
a more obscure sound. 

1 = high -mixed open /; i = high-front open /'; i itself is in Gaelic a 

high-front narrow, i.e. close sound. 
For basis cf. II. Sweet's Phonetics. 
d3 approximately like dg in English jua^fe. 
tj (tch], the voiceless sound of preceding, 
pb is to indicate the peculiar quality of Gaelic initial , which 

begins voiceless and ends voiced. 
h stands for breath-glide, on or off, according as it precedes or 

follows the consonant concerned. 
9 like ch in standard pronunciation of German iM, " I ". It i the 

forward palatal position of the guttural ch> here marked x. t is 

in Gaelic associated with thin or clear vowels (i.e. e, i). 
C sa forward palatal position of . 


448 Mythology of the British Islands 

5 = voiced form of the voiceless x : it is ordinarily written gh> while the 
voiceless sound is written ch in the ordinary script. In the later 
form of Mag (a plain) it passes into gh, i.e. Ma^, and is often 
but feebly felt, in which cases it is Moy in place names, c.f. 

AberfTraw (-ab'er-fruu). 
Abergeleu ( f abar'gel-oi). 
Achill ('09-1!). 
Achren ( f axran). 
Adamnan ( r adam-nan). 
Aebh ('eev). 
Aed ( f eet). 
Aedh ('ee). In Scotland 

y, e.g. y M'y = Hugh 

Aeife (eeif-o). 
Aerfon ('airvori). 
Acs Sfdhe ( ? ees ' |"n-ho). 
Ailbhc (*el*v-9). " 
Ailech ( T at-ex). 
Ailill (at-it). 
Ailinn ( f at-in). 
Ailioll (at-jul). 
Aine ('qa-no). 
Airceltrai ('er'keltrai). 
Airem, Eochaid ('air-em, 


Airmid ( ' air-nut j). 
Alaw ( ai-au). 
Alba (a jo-pa). 

Amaethon ( -a m ai ]>- on ) . 
Amergin, G. Amorgin, 


( f amor-gin). 
Amlwch ('am-lux). 
Ana ('aana). 
Aneurin (-crnoi-rin) 
Annwn ('an'nuun). 
Aoibhinn ('oiv-'in). 
Aoife ('oif-o). 
Aranon (ar f an-on). 
Arawn (*ar f aun). 
Ardan ( f aart-an). 
Ard Chein (-aart f ^ 
Arddu (ari). 

ArgetLim( f arc-t f l h aav). 
Arianrod (ari'an-rod). 
Armagh (-ar'mah), from 
Ard Macha (-aard 
maaxa), i.e. Altitudo 
Machae, Madia's 


Arran ('arr-an). 
Art (ar s t). 
Arthur ('ar)>-ir). 
j Artur ('ar s t-ar). 
I Avallach (avatf-ax). 
Avnia v. Aine. 

Badb (pbav). 
Baclon ( f bad-on). 
; Baile (pbai-lo). 
Bala (-baal-a). 
Balin ('bal-m). 
I (-pbalo-ma'gaur-an). 
i Ballymotc 

(G. Baile an mhota, 
-pbal-an ;voot-o). 
Bally sadare 

(G. Baile-easa-Dara, 
-pbol-cea jdhara). 
Balor ('pbal-or). 
Banba ( f pban a -va). 
Baoisgn e ( ' pboeoe Jc - no ) . 
Beltaine ('pbjaull-t'ifi). 
Bettws-y-coed I. (ibetua 1 
kooyd), 2. (-bets-o'koid). 
Beuno ('boi-rio). 
Blathnat ('pblaa-nat). 

Boann ('pboo-an). 
Bodb (pbov). 
Borrach ('pborr-ax). 
Branwen (ibrurru-en). 

Brea (pbree). 
Brian ( ? pbri'-an). 
Brigit ('pbrii-tj). 
Bri Leith (-pbri 'I 

Bwbachod (-bu'bax-od). 

Caemhoc (-kiivook). 

Cas walla wn 

(-kas'ua h l-aun). 
Cian (kiian). 
Ciaran (kiiaran). 
Cichol ('kixol). 
Clann Chat tan (klan 

Clann Neamhuinn (klan 


Clontarf (klon'tarf). 
Coblynau (-kob'lyn-oi). 
Conchobar ( T kona-xar). 
Conlaoch ('kg^o-l(efex). 
Connaught ('kon-aht). 
Connla ( f kop-la). 
Cruind (kru u iii). 
Cualgne ('ku u at-no). 
Cuchulainn (-ku T xul-in). 
Culann ('kul-an). 
Cumhal ('kuh-cil). 
Curoi (-kii'rooi). 
Custennin (kust'enin). 
Cwm Cawlwyd (-kum 

Cwy (kui). 

Daire (dhai-ro). 
Dechtire (^eg- 
De Danann (d3e 


f dan -an). 

Table of Pronunciation 


Devwy ('dev-ui). 
Diancecht ('djianjcjext). 
Diarmait O'Duibhne 
( ' d3iiar-mitj-o ' dhui-na). 
Dinas Dinllev ('diinas 
Dinas Emrys ('diincm 


Dingwall ('ding-wal). 

( ' d3ijfi ;hen-xtts). 
Diwrnach ('d3urn-ax). 
Dobhar ( f dov-or). 
Domnann ('dom-nunn). 
Dundalk (-dun-dok). 


Erin ( f eer-iu). 
Essyllt (-8S'I h H). 
Etain ('et-qaft). 
Evnissycn (-evniss-jen). 

Ferdiad (-fer^iio). 
Ffordd Elen ('forffS 


Gabhra ('gau-ra). 
Gaillion, Fir ('gat-i-on, 


Govannon (-govann-on). 


Gwalchmei ( f gucilx-mei). 

\ tt r - 

Gwawl i. ( f guaul), 

2. ('fi 

Gwlgawd Gododin 

(gul f gauft v $ -god ' od -in). 
Gwragedd Annwn 
(gur'dg-eftS -an'nuun). 
Gwrhyr ('gur'Mr). 
Gwyngelli (guhi'gel-li). 


Hi Dorchaide 

(hi f dorx-ad3-o). 
Hy Breasail(hi r bree-sal). 

Iddawc ('it^-auk). 
Inniskea ('iii-ish-cjee). 
lolo M organ wg (ii f olo 

Iseult (-i'scElt). 
luchar ('i'u-xar). 
Iweridd (-iu' 

Killarney (-citi'aarno). 

Kulhwch ('koel'huch). 

Laeg (loeoek). 
Laegaire ( 'loeoek- a ra). 
Ler('ter). ' 

Levarcham ( ' levar-xam). 
Lia Fail ('iiia 'faal). 
Lismore (-h's f moor). 
Llevelys (-hlevel-is). 
IJoegyr ('hloigttr). 
Lludd (hlft). 
Llyr (hlir). 
Lochlann ('lox-laiin). 


( m o b-in r og- i' - on ) . 
MacCecht(-ma h k'cjext). 
MacCuill(-ma h k f c h u ll it). 
Mac Greine 

(-ma h k'cr b ee-no). 
Mac Kinecly 

(-ma h k ic h in'eel-i). 
Mac Moineanta 

(-ma h k r moin-ant-9). 
Mac Nia (-ma h k 'iiii'a). 
MacOc (-ma h k ook). 
Mac Samlhainn 

(-ma h k 'sgv-hin). 
Macha (maax-ci). 

Maenor Alun ( f mni-nor 

Maen Tyriawc ( i main 


March ( f marx). 

Math on wy (-ma|)'on-ui). 
Meadha ('meh-a). 
Medb ( r meev). 
Melwas (imel;u-as). 
Menw (menu), 
Mesgegra (-nies'geg-ra). 
Miach ( f mii-ax). 
Mider ( f m'ii-t|or). 
Mile ( f mu-lo). 
Mochdrev ( f mox-drev). 
Mochnant ( f mox-nant). 
Morngu ( f mor-riig-u). 
Moytura (:moi f t h uur-a). 

Myrddin ('m9r^-in). 

Nant y Llew (:nont -9 

h loi). 

Neevougi (-neevook-o). 
Niamh (fijiav). 
Nos galan gaeof (-nos 

-gal-an f gai-of). 
Nwyvre ('ninv-re). 
Nynniaw (imn'i'-au). 

Oeth, Anoeth 

('oij>, 'an:oi]>). 
Ossian ( ? oj-an) (Irish, 

Pryderi (-pri'de-ri). 
Prydwen ( ' prod-wen). 

Queen Guinevere 


Rhiannon (- h ri f an-non). 
Rhyd y Groes (- h ri$$ -9 

450 Mythology of the British Islands 

Sadb (aaov). 
Samhain ('Sgv-in). 
Scathach (-skah-ax). 
Scene ( f scjee-ne). 
Senchan Torpeist 

('Jen-xan f t h or-peejt). 
Sen Mag (Jen mag). 
Sgeolan ('skjoo-lon). 
Sfdh (Jiih). 
Sinann ( f Jin-an). 

Tailtiu ('tual-t/u). 
Tain Bo Chuailgne 

(t h qpii pbo 'xuale-ite). 
Taliesin (-tal-ress-in). 
Pallacht ('tfcal-axt). 
Pathlum ('t h al-am). 

Teirnyon Twryf Vliant 

(teir'ni-on 'tur-if 
Tethra ('t/e-ro). 

Tighernach (tfih-orn-ax). 
Tir nam beo ('tjii'r -nain 

Tir nan og ('tjiir -nan 

Tir Tairngire ('tjiir 

Tuatha De Danann 

('t h u u ah-a id 30 

Twr Branwcn (ituur 

bran- wen). 
Twrch Trwyth (iturx 

' trui])). 
Tylwyth Teg (itel-uty 


Uisnech ('uj-nex). 

Unsenn ('un-Jen). 

Urddawl Ben 



Yspaddadcn Penkawr 

('i8p-a(J5 f ad-en 
f pen-kaur).